Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers have found that Prozac is not only effective in fighting depression, but also in dramatically enhancing the efficacy of a widely used anti-cancer drug.
Highlighting the fact that Prozac is regularly prescribed to ease the emotional pain of patients being treated for cancer, the researchers have revealed that they undertook this study to find out whether the anti-depressant can help fight cancer itself.
Dr. Dan Peer, of the Department of Cell Research and Immunology at the university, says that his study provided promising results.
"The good news is that the medical community won't have to wait - Prozac can be used for this purpose right away," says Dr. Peer, noting that doctors in the U.S. already prescribe it to treat depression in chemotherapy patients.
"Prozac is a very interesting non-specific blocker of cancer resistance," says Dr. Peer, whose study focused on colon cancer and the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin.
The study revealed that Prozac enhanced doxorubicin's efficacy more than 1,000 percent
Prof. Rimona Margalit and graduate student Mirit Argov, who led the study, said that Prozac worked to block the cancer drug from leaving the interior of the cancer cell and poisoning the healthy non-cancerous cells that surrounded it.
The researchers said that a mild doxorubicin-fluoxetine treatment combination significantly slowed down the progression of tumours in animal models.
Dr. Peer said that the observations made during the study suggested that pairing Prozac with chemotherapeutic drugs to curb drug resistance warranted further clinical study.
His research was just published in Cancer Letters, and his suggestions are now listed as recommendations in the latest version of Cancer Encyclopedia.
He called on researchers to join forces internationally to implement retrospective studies of all the types of cancer treatment in which Prozac was prescribed, and to carry out further clinical experiments to validate the significance of Prozac-chemotherapy combo.
"The next step is to take the files of chemo patients and determine whether they received Prozac for their depression. This will streamline the understanding in the scientific community of whether, how and for which cancer-fighting drugs Prozac can be an effective partner. It will also give us invaluable information on how to design new drugs," says Dr. Peer.