This New Drug May Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence

Researchers have found an affordable antibiotic that may play a role in cancer treatment.

A group of scientists from the University of Salford in the United Kingdom may have uncovered a treatment that could play an important role in clearing up cancer stem cells (CSCs), also known as tumor-initiating cells. The researchers have concentrated on existing drugs that have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fight against cancer in hopes of it reaching the clinic faster compared to a non-regulated drug. The existing antibiotic that the scientists have found to potentially clear up CSCs is called doxycycline. Specialists prescribe doxycycline, which is one of the most common antibiotics globally, to treat conditions such as pneumonia, chlamydia, syphilis, sinusitis, cholera, and Lyme disease. Doxycycline works by preventing cells from creating new mitochondria – the cells’ powerhouse. It’s also important to note that doxycycline has minimal side effects. 

For the study, researchers recruited 15 participants from the University Hospital in Pisa, Italy. They gave nine participants doxycycline each day for 14 days leading up to surgery to remove a tumor. The remaining six participants acted as a control group and took no drugs. The scientists tested a number of biomarkers to assess whether the antibiotic had an impact on CSCs. They found a significant drop in CSCs in nearly all the participants who took doxycycline. The co-lead researcher Professor Federica Sotgia reports to Medical News Today, “What we infer here is that the stem cells selectively overexpress key mitochondrial-related proteins, which means that if we can inhibit mitochondrial function, we can disrupt the stem cell.” These results show that antibiotics target mitochondria, which prevents stem cells from reproducing and lead to a potential route to treating disease. Professor Michael Lisanti, the other co-lead researcher, states, “Our ability to treat cancer can only be enhanced by utilizing drugs that are not only cheap but also widely available. Since doxycycline first became clinically available in 1967, its anticancer activity has been right under our nose, for more than 50 years.” The study highlights the value of screening existing drugs for their usefulness against other conditions. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), an annual international health campaign involving thousands of organizations, to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education, and research. Find out how you can get involved and support here.

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