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Anti-fungal drug - Griseofulvin may help treat cancer

An antifungal drug called griseofulvin has been around now for almost 40 years for treatment skin // fungal infections. It has now been discovered that it maybe useful in treating cancer as it has been shown to inhibit growth of cancer cells in the lab. This was reported by international team of scientists. Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, The results are published in online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Griseofulvin can be applied as an ointment to treat skin fungal infection like ringworm can now be given orally. "The drug has remarkably few side effects and has been used for a long time, we discovered that it has the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, in a manner that is similar to much more powerful anticancer drugs such as taxol and vinblastine," said Wilson. "Although the anti-cancer activity is weak, it is already approved for human use and could be used along with more powerful anticancer agents as an adjuvant in cancer chemotherapy."

The authors found that the drug works as an anti-proliferative agent and inhibits cancer cells by affecting mitosis, or cell division, and mitotic spindle microtubule function. The authors conclude by saying- "A mild suppression of microtubule dynamics by griseofulvin in tumor cells, combined with the effects of more powerful drugs working through other mechanisms, might provide a therapeutic advantage for treatment of certain tumors."

The work is a collaborative work between Wilson's lab, in UCSB's Department of Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and the lab in the School of Biosciences and Bioengineering of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in India.

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