Breast cancer

04 November 2010

Asthma drug prevents breast cancer

A drug commonly to treat asthma has been found to stop the spread of breast cancer cells traditionally resistant to chemotherapy.


A drug commonly used in Japan and Korea to treat asthma has been found to stop the spread of breast cancer cells traditionally resistant to chemotherapy, according to a new study led by St. Michael's pathologist Dr Gerald Prud'homme.

"Tranilast, a drug approved for use in Japan and South Korea, and not in use in Canada or the US, has been used for more than two decades to treat asthma and other allergic disorders including allergic rhinitis and atopic dermatitis," Dr Prud'homme says. "Now, our study is the first to discover it not only stops breast cancer from spreading but how the drug targets breast cancer cells."

Researchers grew breast cancer stem cells, which give rise to other cancer cells, in culture. The cells were injected into two groups of mice, including one group, which was also treated with tranilast.

The findings

Dr Prud'homme and his colleagues found the drug reduced growth of the primary cancerous tumour by 50% and prevented the spread of the cancer to the lungs. Researchers also identified a molecule in the cancer cell that binds to tranilast and appears to be responsible for this anti-cancer effect.

Tranilast binds to a molecule known as the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), which regulates cell growth and some aspects of immunity. This makes the drug beneficial in treating allergies, inflammatory diseases and cancer.

"For the first time, we were able to show that tranilast shows promise for breast cancer treatment in levels commonly well-tolerated by patients who use the drug for other medical conditions," Dr Prud'homme said.

"These results are very encouraging and we are expanding our studies. Further studies are necessary to determine if the drug is effective against different types of breast and other cancers, and its interaction with anti-cancer drugs. (EurekAlert!/November 2010)

Read more:
What is asthma?
Breast cancer - the facts

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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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