Cancer Stem Cells Targeted by Anti-Psychotic Drug

Anti-psychotic drug thioridazine can be used to stop tumor from growing, says a new study.

Researchers say that the drug can change cancer stem cells to non-cancerous cells. The drug has a limited effect on normal cells.

"The unusual aspect of our finding is the way this human-ready drug actually kills cancer stem cells; by changing them into cells that are non-cancerous," said Dr Mick Bhatia, scientific director of McMaster's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

Pioneering robotics that tested dozens of drugs were used by the researchers to identify the drug that could change cancer stem cells without affecting the normal cells.

The researchers say that this type of therapy might be the future of cancer prevention.

"Now we can test thousands of compounds, eventually defining a candidate drug that has little effect on normal stem cells but kills the cells that start the tumor," he added.

The drug will now be put on clinical trials along with other drugs used to treat cancer in people in advanced stages of leukemia.

Experts say that this approach might yield good results but it is too early to hail the drug as an answer to cancer. It still remains one of the many areas that researchers are looking in to find a cure.

"It's too early to say whether thioridazine could be used to treat cancer patients, but the research opens up some interesting questions for further investigation. Use of thioridazine at dose levels required to treat cancer may well result in significant side effects that limit or prohibit its use. Further research will be needed before we can be sure," said Dr. Tim Somervaille from UK's Paterson Institute for Cancer Research.

The research team is from McMaster University, Ontario. The study is published in the journal Cell.