Anti-anxiety drug may improve brain cancer survival chances

Nov. 3, 2023
Brain cancers kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer.

A new research study shows that cerebrospinal fluid reduces current treatment efficacy in brain cancer and identifies new therapeutic opportunities.

Cerebrospinal fluid, the clear colorless liquid that protects the brain, also may be a factor that makes brain cancers resistant to treatment, Australian researchers led by Associate Professor Cedric Bardy at the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Flinders University reveal in the journal Science Advances.

Reporting how this occurs, the study in Science Advances shows that a decades-old anti-anxiety drug can improve the effectiveness of chemo-radiotherapy towards glioblastoma, or GBM, the most common and lethal brain cancer.

The collaborative Australian team of neurobiologists, neurosurgeons and oncologists tested the effect of the precious resource of human cerebrospinal fluid on the growth of tumor cells collected from 25 local patients with glioblastoma.

Among their findings, the tumor cells quickly changed their identity and became more resistant to radiation and the drug temozolomide, which are mainstays of glioblastoma therapy.

Investigating the molecular basis for these changes, the team found glioblastoma cells exposed to cerebrospinal fluid were more resistant to ferroptosis, a form of therapy-induced cell death.

Importantly, they showed that trifluoperazine, an anti-anxiety drug used since the 1950s, could re-sensitize glioblastoma cells to both therapies. In contrast, trifluoperazine was found not to harm healthy brain cells. The researchers concluded that combining trifluoperazine with standard care may improve GBM patient survival.

Flinders University release on Newswise


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