Monday, 24 February 2014

Itraconazole - anticancer drug?

Itraconazole is well known as an antifungal drug that is effective and has been in use for decades against various fungal infections including aspergillosis in its many forms.

It has been known for some time (since 2007) that itraconazole has anti-angiogenic properties which means that it can restrict new blood vessel formation - blood vessels that may help the infection grow and can cause excessive bleeding.
This is useful to doctors treating deep seated fungal infections , and may even partly explain why it is a useful antifungal as new blood vessels are formed around infections in the lung.  Other medical fields are now interested in using a drug that is already established (consequently has little or no development costs) and about which there is a lot known (e.g. safe usage).

Some cancer tumours are also supported by a network of new blood vessel formation - if the blood supply is insufficient to support the growth of a tumour it can grow no more! Treatment that helps block the growth of new blood vessels would consequently be valuable weapons with which to help prevent tumour growth.

This new study looks at how effective itraconazole is at reducing tumour size after one month of treatment. The results are encouraging with a 45% reduction in cell proliferation and 26 This was a small study with only 19 patients treated with itraconazole, but it should now trigger a new trial taking place over a longer time in order to establish longer term efficacy using a larger number of patients in order to get stronger evidence to support the use of itraconazole to treat some cancers (e.g. basal cell carcinoma and those tumours that are known to growth by causing active angiogenesis).

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