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Old Drug, New Tricks: Antipsychotic Medication Reinvented as Cancer Treatment

3 FEB 2014

This week, the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences blog looks at the growing trend of recycling old drugs for new medical purposes. We’ve seen vaccines re-applied to fight cancer, and now a Boston-based research team has developed a new use for psychiatric drug perphenazine. The anti-depression therapy shows potential as a new weapon against acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer that claims the lives of 20 percent of diagnosed children and over 50 percent of diagnosed adults. The blog post, Old Drug, New Tricks: Perphenazine Reinvented as Cancer Treatment, explains that with the rising cost of R&D,

Big Pharma is becoming adept at identifying new uses for old drugs. Companies are re-examining established therapies – conducting refocused clinical research within the relatively new context of genome mapping. With increasing clarity, we are able to see how drugs impact cell behavior and operations, and this ability is yielding promising results in the treatment of various forms of cancer. Recent research out of Boston has revealed that a 50 year old antipsychotic medication called perphenazine may be called back into active duty – this time to battle acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a particularly aggressive form of cancer.

The post reveals that perphenazine has the unique ability to activate a cancer-suppressing enzyme called PP2A, which causes malignant tumor cells to self-destruct. While most therapies inhibit proteins cancer cells require to stay alive, perphenazine takes a more aggressive approach – one researchers believe could be effectively used in conjunction with other treatments to help forestall the rapid spread of the disease. Still in initial stages of testing, the Boston team is working to isolate and enhance the drugs cancer-fighting properties while minimizing its psychiatric effects.