Discovery led by MSU professor finds two common medicines can fight childhood cancer
In the midst of recent Spartan football success, something even more exciting is happening in the world of medicine at MSU: the discovery of what could become an incredible tool in the battle against childhood cancer.
The discovery of the cancer-treating drugs was led by Dr. Andre Bachmann, a professor of pediatrics at the MSU College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Dr. Bachmann, who has a history of finding new uses for old drugs, found in his research that a combination of the drugs DFMO or difluoromethylornithine and sulfasalazine can be used to stop the growth of neuroblastoma, which causes about 15 percent of all deaths from childhood cancer.
"I am certainly proud, but I always need to make sure that people understand this is not a one-man show," Bachmann said.
"This is really an effort that so many people contributed to."
The drugs used were unrelated to one another before the trials, DFMO being used to treat African sleeping sickness and sulfasalazine to treat bowel disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.
Bachmann's earlier research had already shown that DFMO targets the protein ornithine decarboxylase or ODC which when elevated in cancer patients can increase the growth and spread of neuroblastoma.
After stopping one protein, Dr. Bachmann continued his research and found that sulfasalazine can be used to stop a second protein, sepiapterin reductase or SPR, which does the same as ODC.
Dr. Bachmann considers using drugs that have already been used in human medicine to be an advantage.
"If we were using a new drug, we'd still be in the clinic by now because it takes so much testing and so much money...but we didn't have to worry about all these things because these [DFMO and sulfasalazine] have already been established. That's why it's so great to take an old drug and repurpose it."
Apart from the obvious benefits this discovery has for the medical community as a whole, Dr. Bachmann also believes it will benefit MSU specifically.
"I think it really will put MSU on the map because of the translational aspects of how it works...this will show we are translating things from the bench to the clinic and we are interacting with the physicians."
Dr. Bachmann will be in East Lansing to speak about his research on Wednesday, Oct. 7.