AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Recent findings from a professor at Texas Tech University Health and Science Center show antipsychotic drugs may help prevent breast cancer from spreading to the brain.
Breast Cancer affects about 1 in 8 women in the United States, it is also the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in women.
According to a 2011 report prepared by the Greater Amarillo Affiliate of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, the breast cancer mortality rate for 25 of 26 Panhandle counties exceeds national and state rates. Local doctors said those numbers keep increasing.
Breast cancer can metastasis to the brain, which is a major cause of cancer related deaths.
"Once this triple negative breast cancer metastasizes, especially to the brain, then there's virtually no treatment options," Dr. Sanjay Srivastava, Professor of Biomedical Sciences at TTUHSC and the study's principal investigator said. "So we wanted to look at what are the options available for treatment of this metastasis triple negative breast cancer."
Researchers have been looking for a successful treatment to stop the cancer from spreading to the brain, but have not been able to find any anticancer agents to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), until now.
Srivastava and his graduate students partners, Parul Gupta and Alok Ranjan, began "thinking outside of the box" and decided to test antipsychotic drugs, which do reach the brain by crossing the BBB.
This research was conducted as a pre-clinical study, meaning it has not been tested on humans yet. However, they were able to preform a culture use just triple negative breast cancer cells.
"To our surprise we found that some of the antipsychotic drugs had significant anticancer effects, so they were able to suppress the growth of the breast cancer cells," Srivastava said.
Out of all the drugs tested Penfluridol was the most successful. Penfluridol is a drug commonly used to treat people with Schizophrenia.
Is using a drug that treats people with mental disorders safe to use on those without? Chronicle studies seem to prove so.
"We actually did a long term chronicle study where we give this drug everyday for about two months and then we look for some side effects, potential toxicity as well as behavioral side effects," Srivastava said. "We did not observe any significant side effects at this point, but of course we cannot rule out anything in the long term. Probably a six month study or a year study is required."
Srivastava believes this research is important because it can help patients who have no treatment options.