New research suggests that a drug used to fight diarrhea may be helpful in treating cancer
This drug, according to the researchers, induces a state in human cells that healthy cells can support, but cancer cells cannot. In the study published in the journal Autophagy, loperamide interacts with tumor cells, the cells produce a stress response that effectively acts as a self-destruct command for the cell. The cancer cell eventually dies, which is obviously a good thing.
The mechanism by which the drug works is related to the natural cellular process of autophagy, which helps keep cells healthy by breaking down things they don’t need or parts that are damaged.
In a healthy cell, this process is obviously very helpful, but when the process escalates, as loperamide appears to help, the tumor cells cannot handle the increased activity and eventually break down so much that they die.
In the article, the researchers note that this treatment appears to work well against glioblastoma cells. Glioblastoma is an incredibly devastating form of cancer that spreads rapidly and can often lead to death.
Finding a novel treatment for such a terrible disease is a big problem, but the team is not yet ready to start giving the anti-diarrhea drug to cancer patients.
At the moment, scientists recommend that these could be used in future treatments.
If scientists can isolate or perhaps even intensify the stress response the drug produces within cells, they could target tumor cells while effectively ignoring healthy cells, as they appear to be able to handle the heightened activity.
It will certainly be interesting to see it work in the future, as it has been shown to be safe and effective in treating diarrhea. It would not be the first time that an existing drug has proven beneficial for conditions it was not originally designed to treat.