Researchers used a sophisticated new scientific technique to look for all the ways a drug called orlistat, also sold as XenicalT, impacts the body.It turns out the medication, which is known to keep the body from absorbing dietary fat and is used to treat obesity, also keeps prostate cancer cells in check.
Researchers say orlistat works similarly in both situations by targeting the activity of fatty acid synthase, an enzyme that turns the carbohydrates we eat into fat. Prostate cancer cells are also affected by this enzyme, which is why the drug works in both cases.After identifying the positive impact on prostate cancer cells, researchers screened breast and colon cancer cells and found they, too, were affected by the enzyme, suggesting growth of more types of cancer may be stopped by orlistat.
But the biggest news may be the scientific technique itself. Called activity-based proteomics, it allows researchers to quickly look at a drug to see everything it is up to in the body -- a fact that will help investigators pinpoint good side effects from medications along with the bad before they are tested in animals and humans.