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August 8, 2005

Heart drug becomes cancer killer

Topics: Medicine

BBC News reports that US scientists say they have successfully tweaked a common heart drug to make it fight cancer. Digoxin or digitalis, which comes from the foxglove plant, is normally used to steady the rhythm of the heart and help it beat more efficiently. But a University of Wisconsin-Madison team has changed some of its building blocks to make it target tumours. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences work provides hope other "natural" drugs can be manipulated.

The technique they used is called neo-glyco-randomisation, which changes the way sugars are grouped on a drug, which, in turn, changes the way the drug works. In the case of digitalis, switching around the sugars boosted its ability to target cancerous cells and kill them in the laboratory. The researchers expect that ultimately, it might be possible to tweak the drug enough so it could be used to treat cancer without having any effect on the heart.

Related reading:
Digoxin inhibits neuroblastoma tumor growth in mice.

Digitalis-induced signaling by Na+/K+-ATPase in human breast cancer cells.

Na/K-ATPase, endogenous digitalis like compounds and cancer development -- a hypothesis.

Posted by Hyscience at August 8, 2005 11:37 PM

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