Alumni progress on potential new cancer treatment

A research team of alumni at the University of Birmingham hopes that a new combination of a cholesterol-lowering drug and a contraceptive steroid could be used as an effective, non-toxic treatment for a range of cancers.

Findings by the team, led by Dr Andrew Southam (MSc Toxicology, 2004) showed that combining Bezafibrate and Medroxyprogesterone Acetate killed cancer cells in a completely new way.

Early stage clinical trials of the drugs in elderly patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) suggested that patients survived three months longer on average than standard palliative care. The combination, known as BaP, has also been used alongside chemotherapy to successfully treat children with Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL), the most common childhood cancer in Eastern Africa.

With funding from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, the researchers confirmed that the way in which the drugs acted upon AML and BL cells could be repeated on many other types of cancer and hope to see the combination used in new clinical trials later this year.

Andrew says, 'Developing drugs to target the fatty acid building blocks of cancer cells has been a promising area of reasearch in recent years. It is very exciting we have identified these non-toxic drugs already sitting on pharmacy shelves.'

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