Drug used in alcohol treatment offers hope for tackling brain tumours

 

A drug used to treat alcohol addiction could help destroy deadly brain tumours, research has shown.

For more than 60 years, disulfiram has been used as part of therapy to wean people off alcohol. It makes the body acutely sensitive to alcohol, producing an unpleasant reaction.

Now scientists believe the drug could offer new hope to patients with glioblastoma, the most common and deadly form of brain cancer.

Unlike most drugs, disulfiram is able to penetrate the “blood-brain barrier” - a physical and molecular wall that keeps toxic substances out of the brain.

Laboratory tests have shown that the drug is effective at killing cultured glioblastoma cells. This is especially true when disulfiram is combined with gemcitabine, one of the few chemotherapy drugs that can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Because disulfiram is already a licensed drug with a known safety record, it could have a fast passage to clinical trials as a brain cancer treatment.

Study leader Dr Weiguang Wang, from the University of Wolverhampton, said: “We've been studying the cancer-fighting properties of disulfiram for over a decade, so it's very exciting to have reached a stage where clinical trials may be possible.

“These latest findings suggest that the drug may work by transporting copper into the cancer cells, generating destructive free-radicals that build up and kill the cell. Glioblastoma cells tend to have much higher levels of copper than normal tissues, meaning additional copper may tip them over the edge while sparing normal tissues.

“The idea of using copper to tackle cancer was first suggested by UK scientists in the 1920s, but this is the first time that scientists have found a way of successfully transporting excess copper into cancer cells and shown how this can be combined with conventional chemotherapy treatment to help kill glioblastoma cells. We're now working on the best way to deliver dilsulfiram and hope to begin clinical trials in cancer patients as soon as funding can be secured.”

The research is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Dr Julie Sharp, from Cancer Research UK, which owns the journal, said: “One of the big challenges in cancer treatment is how to successfully kill tumour cells without harming the surrounding tissues.

“Drugs like this one, which can both penetrate the blood brain barrier and increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy, could play an important role in overcoming the problem of resistance to help improve the outlook for people with brain tumours.”

Sarah Lindsell, head of The Brain Tumour Charity, which funded the research, said: “We see first-hand the devastating effects that glioblastomas have on patients and their families and this research could be a foundation to improve treatment and extend life expectancy. It is only through funding much-needed research that we can offer real hope to people who are diagnosed with a glioblastoma in the future.”

Each year around 5,000 people develop malignant brain tumours in the UK.

Only around 27 per cent of patients in England diagnosed with glioblastoma survive for a year or more.

PA

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

    £7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick