Scientists looking to use cholesterol-busting drug to fight cancer

Photo: Fotolia
Photo: Fotolia

As part of an international effort to find cancer treatments, a team of Polish scientists are looking at how cholesterol-busting drug Fenofibrate can help.

After working on how the drug has worked with people suffering from brain tumours (glioma), Dr. Maja Grabacka from the Faculty of Food Technology of the University of Agriculture in Kraków is looking at putting the cells into an ‘energy crisis’. 

This may result in both cell death and tumour growth inhibition, as well as increased sensitivity to conventional methods of therapy for this type of cancer, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

According to the researchers, fenofibrate, which is used in the treatment of hyperlipidaemia, is one of the most promising drugs of this type after they developed a method for producing biodegradable matrices from a lactate-glycolide polymer, fenofibrate carriers that can be placed in the tumour resection site.

Dr. Grabacka said: “Sewn in the brain tissue, they could gradually release fenofibrate and act therapeutically by generating a high local concentration of this drug at the target site. 

“This would help overcome the problem of low efficiency of fenofibrate crossing the blood-brain barrier.”

She added that fenofibrate causes metabolic reprogramming in glioma cells, inhibits the spread of cancer cells in the body and reduces their survival, while being safe for healthy cells.

Nearly 3,000 people in Poland develop glioma and brain tumours every year. Despite advances in research into the aetiology, pathogenesis and diagnosis of this cancer, as well as the development of new therapies, the average survival time of patients diagnosed with glioma is only about 12 months.

She said: “Innovative use of safe, proven drugs for new therapeutic purposes may support standard treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

“By attacking the weak points of cancer cell metabolism, fenofibrate may sensitise it to some types of chemotherapeutic agents and allow for the use of lower doses, better tolerated by patients.”

These are the assumptions of the so-called metronomic therapy involving long-term administration of low doses of cytostatic and cytotoxic drugs. The approach minimizes the serious side effects of the drugs and is used, for example, in children with oncological diseases.

Dr. Garbacka added that the measurable economic benefit is not without significance. Old drugs, available as generics, are much cheaper than new substances covered by patents.

Dr. Garbacka carried out her part of the research with funding from the Bridge project of the Foundation for Polish Science.

The team included Professor Krzysztof Reiss and Professor Augusto Ochoa of the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, Louisiana State University (LSU), and the Louisiana Cancer Resarch Center (LCRC), an organization of institutions involved in cancer research.

The second part of the research, including in vivo experiments, was carried out at LSU and LCRC, under the supervision of Professor Krzysztof Reiss. 

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