Researchers at The University of Texas have discovered that an old drug could double as a potential new treatment for cancer.
While studying the DNA of yeast, U.T. biology professor Edward Marcotte and graduate student Hye Ji Cha found a way to possibly cut off blood to cancerous tumors.
"We discovered that some pieces of cells--certain genes in yeast cells--were important in humans for building blood vessels," Marcotte said. "This system in yeast was relevant to human blood vessels even though yeast doesn't have blood and they don't have blood vessels."
They wondered what would happen to blood vessels if the function of those genes were blocked. That’s where Thiabendazole, a 40-year-old anti-fungal medicine, steps in.
The team used frog embryos for the experiment.
"There was the prediction, we threw the drug on the frog embryos and we were able to watch the blood vessels fall apart,” John Wallingford, U.T. developmental biology professor, said. “It was fantastic."
The breakthrough has the potential to save lives as a cancer treatment.
"As a tumor grows, it needs new blood vessels. If you could have a drug that goes in and blocks that, then you could slow the tumor growth," Wallingford said. "Most of the other therapies that are designed to target the blood vessels for cancer are very expensive, very hard to make. This is a very cheap drug, something we could move into the clinic very easily and people could afford to take."
The research was funded in part by taxpayer dollars from the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas.
The next step is clinical trials of the drug as part of cancer therapy.