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Antipsychotic drug exhibits cancer-fighting properties

  • In zebrafish model, perphenazine activates therapeutic pathway for intractable leukemia, may hold promise for other tumors

    Alejandro Gutierrez, MD

    In a prime example of finding new uses for older drugs, studies in zebrafish show that a 50-year-old antipsychotic medication called perphenazine can actively combat the cells of a difficult-to-treat form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The drug works by turning on a cancer-suppressing enzyme called PP2A and causing malignant tumor cells to self-destruct.

    The findings suggest that developing medications that activate PP2A, while avoiding perphenazine's psychotropic effects, could help clinicians make much-needed headway against T-cell ALL, and perhaps other tumors as well.

    A study team led by Alejandro Gutierrez, MD, and A. Thomas Look, MD, of Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, and Jon Aster, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, reported the results Jan. 9 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

    T-ALL is rarer and more aggressive than the B-cell form of ALL, and it has a relatively poor prognosis. Despite improvements in the treatments available, 20 percent of children and more than 50 percent of adults diagnosed with T-ALL succumb to it.

Posted on January 09, 2014

  • Alejandro Gutierrez, MD, FAAP
  • Research
  • Acute Lymphoblastic - ALL
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