Potential Cancer Treatment Found in Existing Medication

A team of Boston-based doctors have discovered a cancer fighting enzyme in a 50-year-old medication.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found a potential cancer treatment in a 50-year-old antipsychotic medication. A team of doctors from the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital discovered that the existing medication known as perphenazine, has the potential to battle an rare and aggressive form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia known as T-ALL. The drug works by activating an enzyme called PP2A which diminishes cancer cells.

The doctors followed a increasingly popular trend of using existing drugs for new disease treatments. In researching new T-ALL therapies, the team tested 4,880 compounds, some of which were existing medications, on zebrafish who were given an engineered model of the cancer.

Alejandro Gutierrez of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, said in a press release:

“We rarely find potential drug molecules that activate an enzyme,” Gutierrez explained. “Most new drugs deactivate some protein or signal that the cancer cell requires to survive. But, here, perphenazine is restoring the activity of PP2A in the T-ALL cell.”

The cancer-fighting potential of perphenazine has been tested and confirmed in T-ALL cells removed from mice and humans. Now, the next step is developing a treatment that uses the same PP2A enzymes but without the mental affects of this antipsychotic medication.

According to the press release, the PP2A will not instantly cure patients of T-ALL, especially considering the difficult-to-treat nature of this form of cancer. However, the discovery does have the potential to fight T-ALL cancer cells.

The study notes that PP2A also suppresses certain proteins found in other types of tumors, therefore suggesting that this recent discovery has the potential to fight more types of cancers than just T-ALL.