Fasudil - drug used to treat cardiovascular problems could treat certain types of leukemia, say researchers.
The drug, Fasudil, has been used to treat stroke patients because it is a vasodilator, meaning it dilates blood vessels. However, its potential in leukemia emerged because its method of action is blocking the activity of a protein called Rho kinase, or ROCK.
ROCK, which plays a role in a variety of cellular activities, attracted the attention of the national research team led by Reuben Kapur, Ph.D., Frieda and Albrecht Kipp Professor of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, as they were studying the effects of mutations in several other proteins that are associated with difficult-to-treat types of leukemia. Those mutations, experiments revealed, resulted in hyperactivation of ROCK. The group reported its findings in the Sept. 13, 2011 issue of the journal Cancer Cell
, which was published online Sept. 12.
"There's been a push to identify targets that get revved up as a result of the mutations we find in the leukemia cells, and we found that ROCK appeared to be hyperactive. Fasudil is available and targets ROCK, but its possible effectiveness as an anti-leukemia agent had not been tested," Dr. Kapur said.
"Many of these leukemia patients are older, especially those with acute myelogenous leukemia, and they undergo extensive chemotherapy," said Dr. Kapur. "If we could find other ways of treating them that would be more tolerable, that would be useful for older populations."