A drug used to treat leukaemia could also help stroke patients, thus paving the way to bring in new treatment methods for stroke, a new study has found.
Researchers from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) and the University of Michigan Medical School have found that leukaemia drug, imatinib (Gleevec(r)) when combined with drug tPA, used to treat stroke, effectively lowered the risk of tPA-associated bleeding in mice.
The tPA drug treatment is limited use within the first three hours of the stroke onset, however the new study showed that the new drug combo reduced the bleeding risk even when tPA was given as late as five hours.
According to WHO, less than 3pct of patients with this type of stroke receive tPA because the narrow safety window has often passed by the time a stroke patient reaches a hospital and is diagnosed.
The scientists have found that key growth factor PDGF-CC, responsible for regulating cell growth, can also control the blood brain barrier (a structure that normally shields the brain from the blood).
When tPA acts on PDGF-CC, the blood-brain barrier becomes porous and can start to leak. Imatinib inhibits the detrimental effect of PDGF-CC by binding to its receptor PDGFR alpha, seemingly without hindering tPA's therapeutic effect, which is to break down clots that have lodged in the brain's blood vessels.
"Ten years ago our research group identified the growth factor PDGF-CC, and we are now very excited having unraveled a mechanism in the brain involving this factor", Nature quoted lead researcher Professor Ulf Eriksson, as saying
The research team claims that if the clinical trial with stroke patients in Sweden showed positive results, then imatinib or similar drugs could be given to stroke patients to increase the therapeutic quality of tPA.
"This finding has indeed the potential to revolutionize the treatment of stroke," Eriksson added.
The study is published in Nature Medicine.