Study says aids drug ABC (Abacavir) can reduce proliferation and induce differentiation of human cancer cells, by the downregulation of telomerase activity.
The finding can make ABC an effective therapeutic strategy for the treatment of the highly malignant primary brain tumors.
"We found that ABC not only downregulates telomerase activity but also reduces proliferation and induces differentiation, suggesting that its use could be an effective therapeutic strategy for the treatment of telomerase expressing tumors, such as medulloblastomas," said lead researcher Francesca Pentimalli, PhD., an assistant adjunct professor at the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine.
ABC is one of the most efficacious nucleoside analogues, with a well-characterized inhibitory activity on reverse transcriptase enzymes of retroviral origin.
Recently ABC has been shown to also inhibit human telomerase activity.
It is believed that telomerase activity is required in essentially all tumors for the immortalization of a subset of cells, including cancer stem cells.
In the study, researchers tested whether ABC could inhibit telomerase in medulloblastoma, the most common malignant tumor of the central nervous system in children.
According to Pentimalli, ABC scores over other tested compounds targeting telomerase that are currently in preclinical studies, with the fact that it has been used to treat AIDS for many years, which "would have obvious advantages given its favorable safety profile and its epidemiological record of generally good tolerance to long-term administration."
Also, she said that as the blood-brain barrier restricts the entry of hydrophilic and large lipophilic compounds into the brain, the lipophilic nature of ABC, which enables it to pass through the blood brain barrier more easily, represents yet another advantage for its possible use for the treatment of medulloblastoma.
"Our report suggests further consideration and study of the use of ABC as an anti-telomerase agent in cancer,' said Pentimalli.
The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.