Johns Hopkins researchers slow cancer growth with drugs

Approximately 90% of cancer deaths occur only after metastasis, according to Jayatilaka, who said that she and her colleagues first made a breakthrough when they discovered two proteins.

Kristy Douglas | Jun 19, 2017

   

Most cancers become fatal when the cancer cells spread throughout the body, but researchers at Johns Hopkins University said they may have found a way to slow or even stop the cells from spreading via some existing prescription medications. The researchers, led by recent PhD graduate Hasini Jayatilaka, managed to slow the process of tumors multiplying and spreadingknown in medical parlance as "metastasis"in lab mice.

"A female patient with breast cancer doesn't succumb to the disease just because she has a mass on her breast; she succumbs to the disease because [when] it spreads either to the lungs, the liver, the brain, it becomes untreatable," said Jayatilaka, who completed her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering this spring. "What we came up with through our studies was this drug cocktail that could potentially inhibit the spread of cancer."

Approximately 90% of cancer deaths occur only after metastasis, according to Jayatilaka, who said that she and her colleagues first made a breakthrough when they discovered two proteinsInterleukin 6 and Interleuken 8that start the metastasis process. A tumor's cells release these proteins when the tumor reaches a certain size.

The researchers then discovered that metastasis in mice who had cancer slowed substantially when the mice received a combination of drugs. Those drugs were Tocilizumab, which treats rheumatoid arthritis; and Reparixin, a newer medication now undergoing testing for cancer treatment.

The drugs did not stop metastasis completely, but the researchers hope that they might with some further testing and enhancements. But the researchers will need to devise some human clinical trials of the medications first, they said.

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