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AIDS Drug Slows Spread of Deadly Childhood Brain Cancer

Study finds it suppresses enzyme vital to tumor growth

THURSDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- A drug approved to combat AIDS may also help slow the spread of a deadly type of brain tumor that tends to attack children.

A study published in the current issue of the International Journal of Cancer reports that ABC (Abacavir) suppresses the enzyme telomerase. Telomerase activity appears to be essential for certain tumor survival and growth, such as medulloblastoma -- a highly malignant cancer of the central nervous system.

In an international study, treatment with ABC improved the survival rate of medulloblastoma patients, although it did not cure them.

However, the medication appeared better tolerated by patients than other drugs used to target telomerase in trials, and ABC's safety record in long-term AIDS treatment would make it a good treatment option, lead researcher Francesca Pentimalli, an assistant adjunct professor at the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, said in a news release issued by the institute. The drug was also able to pass through the blood-brain barrier more easily than other tested compounds, so it could reach the medulloblastoma.

"Our report suggests further consideration and study of the use of ABC as an anti-telomerase agent in cancer," Pentimalli said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about treatment trials for childhood medulloblastoma.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Sbarro Health Research Organization, news release, March 24, 2009

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