In Clinical Research Training? Here’s How a Heart Medication Could Help Treat CancerNovember 12, 2019
As cancer treatment research works towards drugs that have anti-aging properties, this may help treat or prevent the spread of growths. Since poorly aging cells can enable the development of the disease, this could act as an effective treatment.
- The process of aging in cells is called senescence.
Senescence is normal and is the body’s way of getting rid of older, damaged matter. However, when the process is not taking place normally, it is thought that this can allow tumors to grow.
- Drugs that eliminate poorly aging cells are called senolytics.
Read on for how scientists have discovered a pre-existing senolytic that may be of use, originally and currently used to treat the heart.
Why Students in Clinical Research Training Should Know About Ouabain
Ouabain is a cardiac glycoside, which is a type of organic compound that:
- Comes from the seeds of a plant called strophanthus gratus
- Acts on the Sodium-Potassium ATPase pump, important for action potential or nerve impulses
- Treats atrial fibrillation and flutter (abnormal heartbeats), as well as heart failure
While this drug focuses on the heart, researchers have discovered another use for it that could help fight cancer cells. Studies showed that ouabain could kill various kinds of aging cells, such as ones that were senescent from cancer or toxic exposure.
Studies on mice have suggested that eliminating specific senescent cells could increase lifespan and improve overall health. If you are in a clinical research program, you may find this inspiring for your future career. What new discoveries will be made when you are in the field that could influence your work?
The Benefits of Testing a Drug that Is Already on the Market
Unlike many studies, research on ouabain for cancer treatment has a particular advantage.
- Since the drug has already been approved and put on the market, it is easily available.
- In addition, there is potential for research with patients who have already been given the drug.
Since many people have been given the drug as treatment for heart issues, these patients can be looked at in terms of how this has affected other aspects of their health. The additional opportunities for data collection are promising.
What Other Drugs Have Been Tested for the Same Purpose?
Navitoclax is a senolytic that was tested as a treatment for the blood cancers lymphoma and leukaemia. Unfortunately, side effects were serious, such as eliminating:
- Platelets, important for blood clotting; and
- Macrophages, crucial for immunity
Because of these severe side effects and the further complications and dangers they present, researchers are searching for alternative senolytics that can perform the same selective elimination of problem cells without endangering patients. Clinical research training includes drug safety as an important emphasis, and protecting the wellbeing of the public is a cornerstone of the field.
Benefits of Repurposing Drugs After Clinical Research Training
Historically, this is not the first time the drugs have been repurposed. One of the biggest success stories has been Viagra, commonly known as a drug for erectile dysfunction but originally developed with the goal of treating hypertension and angina. Repurposing drugs has several advantages over developing new ones:
- Faster access for patients
- Less steps with the elimination of the development process
- Pre-existing data and testing for safety
With these benefits, the process of repurposing a drug can still be lengthy and requires a great deal of research—but it can be cost-effective and resourceful, bringing new options.
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