Researchers Say Malaria Drug Could Also Treat Cancer


March 15, 2012

Voice Of America

Researchers say a drug commonly used to treat malaria and rheumatoid arthritis has also proved effective in treating some aggressive cancers.   When scientists administered hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, together with known cancer drugs, they found it stopped the growth of cancerous tumors in two-thirds of the patients.

Scientists know that human cancer cells grow by getting energy from adjacent tumors, where cells have begun to self-destruct.

The spread of cancer is accelerated by the death of these cells.

“This process called autophagy, which literally means to self-eat, is present in all cells," said Dr. Ravi Amaravadi. "But what we are finding in our research is that cancer cells have a very high level of autophagy even before any treatment, and so they are poised to take on the damage from existing cancer therapies and simply break down the damaged parts to fuel further growth.”

Dr. Ravi Amaravadi spoke to us via Skype. He is a cancer specialist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. His group treated patients by combining conventional cancer medications with the anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine.  The compound is known to inhibit autophagy and researchers hoped it could stop cancer cells from growing... Read More