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Rodent of the Week: New use for an old drug

November 6, 2009 |  2:56 pm

Rodent_of_the_week Research can be serendipitous. Sometimes doctors will stumble on an effective medication or they will find a drug they expected to work on one condition actually helps another.

Such is the case with a gonorrhea medication developed in the 1930s. Preliminary evidence published this week shows that the substance, called acriflavine, may work as a cancer therapy. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University discovered that the drug has the ability to stop the growth of new blood vessels, which may then curb tumor growth. Mice who were engineered to develop cancer showed no tumor growth when they were injected with acriflavine daily. The study showed that acriflavine inhibits the function of a protein called HIF-1, which promotes new blood vessel formation.

"Mechanistically, this is the first drug of its kind," Jun Liu, an author of the paper and a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, said in a news release. "It is acting in a way that is never seen for this family of proteins."

Researchers at Johns Hopkins continue to explore new uses for old drugs in the school's expansive drug library.

"The more drugs you have, the more possibilities, the higher the chance you rediscover something that will help," Liu said. "Oftentimes, we are surprised that a drug known to do something else has another hidden property."

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Advanced Cell Technology Inc.

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