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Cancer-fighting drugs might also stop malaria early
Date:8/25/2014

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"It used to be that researchers were lucky if they could identify one or two promising compounds at a time; now with advances in high-throughput screening technology we can explore thousands at once and identify many more," said Derbyshire, an assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke.

Focusing on a particular group of enzyme-blocking compounds called protein kinase inhibitors, they identified 31 compounds that inhibit malaria growth without harming the host. Several of the compounds are currently in clinical trials to treat cancers like leukemia and myeloma.

The same compounds that stopped the stage of malaria that lurks in the liver also worked against the stage that lives in the blood.

Malaria-free mice that received a single dose before being bitten by infected mosquitos were able to avoid developing the disease altogether.

Medicines for malaria have been around for hundreds of years, yet the disease still afflicts more than 200 million people and claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year, particularly in Asia and Africa. Part of the reason is malaria's ability to evade attack. One of the most deadly forms of the parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has already started to outsmart the world's most effective antimalarial drug, artemisinin, in much of southeast Asia. Infections that used to clear up in a single day of treatment now take several days.

Diversifying the antimalarial arsenal could also extend the lifespan of existing drugs, since relying less heavily on our most commonly used weapons gives the parasite fewer opportunities to develop resistance, Derbyshire said.

Another advantage is that the compounds they tested suppress multiple malaria proteins at once, which makes it harder for the parasites to develop ways around them.

"That makes them like a magic bullet," she said.


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Contact: Robin Ann Smith
ras10@duke.edu
919-681-8057
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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