This came up back in March (http://community.lls.org/message/98224), but in the news again
Scottish university reveals new drug to combat leukaemia and it's found in.. Irn-Bru
Aug 8 2011 By Kate Foster
THOUSANDS of cancer patients could be cured by a lifesaving new drug - linked to Irn-Bru.
The drug is a form of quinine - a bitter flavouring found in the fizzy pop and tonic water - which is used to treat malaria.
Scottish doctors working on a cure for a common leukaemia have discovered it kills the most stubborn cancer cells, and believe a cure is now close.
Medics hope the drug, called hydroxychloroquine, could also be effective against other cancers including those of the breast, lung and bowel.
Last night, scientists leading the research said they are now within sight of a cure.
Dr Arunima Mukhopadhyay, who has led the laboratory studies, said: "We can see a cure on the horizon and we are trying to get there. The fact we are using an anti-malarial drug means we don't have to make a new drug.
"There is a lot of initial data supporting the use of hydroxychloroquine in cancer treatment.
"There are several trials ongoing with patients who are suffering from other forms of blood cancer, solid tumours of the prostate and in cancers of the bowel, kidney, lungs, breast and skin."
The research has been carried out by scientists led by Professor Tessa Holyoake from the Paul O'Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, world leaders in research into chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).
There are around 500 Scots with the disease and 50 new cases every year.
Most of the sufferers are treated with chemotherapy drugs but must stay on them for the rest of their lives because the cancer cells cannot be wiped out entirely.
For some patients, the side-effects of the drugs are intolerable - and for others the disease returns.
But Dr Mukhopadhyay said hydroxychloroquine has been found to kill the remaining leukaemia cells, meaning patients could simply take a short course of the pill and be cured.
She said: "With current treatments for CML, a tiny population of stem cells remain in the bone marrow which can't be killed.
"This means that patients have to continue on drugs for the rest of their lives and quite often, if you take them off the drugs, they will get a relapse."
Trials are now under way in patients and a treatment could be available on the NHS within a few years.
Hydroxychloroquine works on leukaemia cells in a similar way to how it combats malaria, by changing the environment within the blood cells they both need to survive.
In malaria, which is caused by a parasite spread by mosquitoes, the drug enters the food sac of the parasite through the patient's red blood cells.
It interferes with the way the parasite creates its food supply by neutralising the acidic environment it needs. The parasite then dies due to a build-up of lethal toxins.
In leukaemia, the drug enters the patient's white blood cells and interrupts the way cancer cells remove their damaged products and recycle their building blocks. Again, it neutralises the acidic environment and the cancer cell dies.
The drug could also treat breast, lung, bowel and skin cancers - although if caught early enough these are already successfully cured without the need for lifelong drugs.
The breakthrough has been hailed by charities, who said it offers cancer patients new hope.
Tony Gavin, campaign director at the Leukaemia CARE charity, said: "This is an exciting clinical trial being conducted by a world-class team.
"A positive outcome may have a huge impact on the quality of life of all CML patients."
'We can see a cure and are trying to get there'