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Malaria Drug Could Be Used To Treat Brain Cancer

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Glioblastoma also known as Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) is dubbed as the most aggressive form of brain cancer. It can reportedly be cured with malaria drugs, reveals a new study.

Glioblastoma symptoms include headache, nausea, personality change, and sometimes even unconsciousness. The probable reasons cited for this disease include genetic disorders such as Li Fraumeni syndrome and neurofibromatosis. Sometimes, Glioblastoma occurs on account of radiation therapy.

Doctors at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus have created history as they stabilized a young patient suffering from Glioblastoma with an off-label malaria drug when every other treatment proved to be ineffective.

The Curious Case Of Lisa Rosendahl

Lisa Rosendahl is now 26 years old, though she first got to know about her condition when she was only 21. A large mass was detected in her brain and after the tests were conducted, it was found that her condition was cancerous.

Jean Mulcahy-Levy, MD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, notes that Lisa is strong-willed. However, the disease she suffers from is none other than the dangerous Glioblastoma. When she arrived at the cancer center, she had undergone almost every possible option and her chances of survival were very slim.

Lisa was given an ultimatum and was told that a maximum of 12 months were all she had, after every option to stabilize her failed one after the other. This is when Lisa and her family, after consulting the doctor, decided to use a drug that had previously not been tested on any cancer patient. The drug that finally proved to be useful goes by the name chloroquine, an off-label malaria drug.

The reason behind its success against brain tumors lies in a process known as autophagy. Even if it is quite common in the natural world, autophagy takes place on account of cellular recycling.

Certain cell organelles encapsulate any additional, harmful material within the cell and ferry it to the cell's lysosomes to be disposed. Autophagy was promoted in brain cancers to help traditional cancer treatments.

The doctors were aware of chloroquine's capability in cell autophagy. They predicted that without the most reliable defender, the tumor would be more vulnerable to traditional treatments used to destroy it.

Lisa first used Vemurafenib when chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and even surgery failed. After initial success, Vemurafenib failed as the cancer managed to use autophagy in its favor. Now, with the addition on chloroquine the Vemurafenib is working fine.

"We have treated three patients with the combination and all three have had a clinical benefit. It's really exciting - sometimes you don't see that kind of response with an experimental treatment. In addition to Lisa, another patient was on the combination [for] two-and-a-half years. She's in college, excelling, and growing into a wonderful young adult, which wouldn't have happened if we hadn't put her on this combination," says Mulcahy-Levy.


Photo: Roger Mommaerts | Flickr

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