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Scientists find potential benefit of hypericin for recurrent brain tumors
Date:4/11/2011

SALT LAKE CITY Researchers have found that a synthetic version of hypericin, a compound naturally found in St. John's wort, may be a promising treatment for patients with recurrent malignant brain tumors. Their findings were published online on March 31, 2011 in the journal Cancer.

Malignant gliomas, tumors that arise in the brain or spine, are largely incurable cancers with a poor prognosis. An estimated 10,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with malignant gliomas, and their average one-year survival is approximately 50 percent. Laboratory studies have shown that synthetic hypericin strongly inhibits the growth of gliomas, due in part to its inhibitory effect on protein kinase C, a family of enzymes that promotes tumor proliferation.

"Because hypericin has shown dramatic results in stopping tumor growth in gliomas in the laboratory, we wanted to examine the safety and potential antitumor activity of synthetic hypericin in patients with recurrent malignant gliomas," says William T. Couldwell, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine, and lead author on the study.

In this study, Couldwell and a team of scientists from across the US and Canada administered oral synthetic hypericin to patients with two types of gliomas, anaplastic astrocytoma and glioblastoma, whose tumors had recurred or progressed despite standard treatment. In order to evaluate the safety and tolerability of the drug, the researchers gave the patients gradually increasing dosages of synthetic hypericin and monitored them for adverse effects. Forty percent of the study participants were able to complete a three-month treatment regimen, demonstrating that hypericin is well-tolerated as an oral medication in this patient group.

Couldwell and his colleagues also examined response to treatment among this group of glioma patients. They found that 22 percent of all study participants achieved either st
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Contact: Chris Nelson
christopher.nelson@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-7387
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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