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Leukemia drug a treatment for brain cancer: Study


Posted on: 10/22/2003

Leukemia drug a treatment for brain cancer: Study

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003 07:37:34 PM

WASHINGTON : A preliminary US study has revealed that arsenic trioxide, a drug used to treat a rare form of leukemia or blood cancer, can also help to treat glioblastoma, an incurable form of brain cancer.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have found that arsenic trioxide increases the effectiveness of radiation therapy in mice with the disease.

"Many brain cancers are incurable. The use of arsenic trioxide with radiation may be one way to make the treatment more effective," said Susan Knox, associate professor of radiation oncology and the study's lead author.

Arsenic trioxide works in part by releasing damaging molecules called reactive oxygen species or ROS that destroy cancer cells.

According to Shoucheng Ning, a research associate working with Knox, the drug releases even higher levels of ROS when coupled with radiation therapy.

The team tested this idea in both the lab dish and in mice. In both cases, exposing glioblastoma cells to radiation within two hours of receiving a dose of arsenic trioxide amplified the effects of radiation treatment on its own.

The mice had tumours formed by injecting human glioblastoma cells under the skin. In these mice, arsenic trioxide alone did not slow the tumour growth, and radiation alone delayed the tumour's growth for only 45 days.

The combined treatment eliminated the tumour in four out of five mice and shrunk the tumour by 90 per cent in the fifth mouse. The tumours had not begun growing again, when the trial ended three months later.

Ning said that the arsenic trioxide dose the mice received is low enough that it would not be toxic in humans.

"The concentration we used is already known to be achievable and is well tolerated in humans," he said.

"Based on these results, we think the data are compelling enough to move forward with human trials," Knox added.

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