Old drugs bring new hope for the treatment of an aggressive form of childhood cancer
23 May, 2013
Researchers at Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) have discovered that beta-blockers, traditionally used in the treatment of hypertension, can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in childhood cancers, such as neuroblastoma.
In a study published in the British Journal of Cancer today, CCIA scientists have shown that combining standard chemotherapy with beta-blockers can enhance the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
Dr Eddy Pasquier, lead author of the study at CCIA, initiated the project after receiving the Balnaves Foundation Young Researcher of the Year grant in 2010.
“Beta-blockers are drugs that are used in the clinic to treat high blood pressure. Retrospective studies have recently suggested that the use of beta-blockers in cancer patients may be associated with clinical benefits. We therefore asked the question: Could beta-blockers be directly combined with chemotherapy to increase its efficacy in hard-to-treat cancers?” says Dr Pasquier.
“What we've shown is that these drugs - which are very cheap and non-toxic - can increase the efficacy of certain types of chemotherapy used in the treatment of neuroblastoma - a particularly aggressive form of childhood cancer - by promoting their capacity to block the formation of blood vessels within the tumour.
“This is an exciting discovery on two levels: 1) the development of a more effective treatment for neuroblastoma and 2) the possibility of actually reducing the amount of chemotherapy administered to patients.
“Increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy through the use of beta-blockers means we can get the same anti-tumour effect with a lower dose of chemotherapy. Wherever possible we are working towards reducing the toxicity of children's cancer treatment and minimising the short-term and long-term side effects of the chemotherapy,” says Dr Pasquier.
Dr Pasquier is hopeful that by working closely with colleagues at Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick and clinicians around the world, clinical studies can be designed to test the potential of this new approach for neuroblastoma tumours and rapidly improve treatments for children.
Contact: Catherine Blake, Children's Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA)
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