Cancer researchers at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway have been experimenting with hundreds of known drugs in recent years to see how they influence cancer cells.
Their most recent discovery shows that a medication prescribed for parasites, such as tapeworms and giardia, contains a substance that kills prostate and colon cancer cells.
“We discovered that this specific substance is blocking the signaling pathway in the cancer cells, and make them stop growing. It is not often that researchers discover a substance that targets specific molecules as precisely as this one,” says Professor Karl-Henning Kalland at the department of clinical science, at UiB and leader of the research group, in a statement.
His team’s research found nitazoxanide (NTZ), an approved anti-parasitic therapy, decomposed activated Beta-catenin.
Beta-catenin is a protein found in high amounts in both prostate and colon cancer cells. The protein is critical for tumor progression–its activation not only promotes cell division but makes the cancer cells more resistant and increases their chance of survival.
The research team found that NTZ hinders the activated Beta-catenin. However, it also appears that this hindering stimulates central parts of the immune system that attacks cancer cells.
“At the moment, we are working on how to strengthen our ongoing immune therapy against prostate cancer by using the mechanisms we discovered of the NTZ,” said Kalland.
Kalland and his research team is in the first phase in a clinical trial using immune therapy against prostate cancer (cryoIT).
The study is published in Nature Chemical Biology.