Discovered: Psoriasis medication reduces cancer growth

Active ingredient in psoriasis drug helps fight cancer cells
Cancer is a serious illness that affects many people worldwide. Doctors and scientists are therefore intensively looking for new ways to treat cancer more effectively. At the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), for example, a promising active ingredient is currently being tested to combat tumors in the immune system.

Cancer cells have forgotten how to react to signals that should normally initiate preprogrammed cell death. However, the investigated drug can apparently restore this lost ability. This limits cancer growth and slows down the metastasis of existing tumors. A promising approach to cancer therapy.

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center found that a medication for psoriasis (psoriasis) can help slow the growth and metastasis of cancerous tumors. The drug causes cancer cells to react to forgotten signals that normally initiate so-called apoptosis. This is a kind of suicide program for individual cells. The experts from the Cancer Research Center published a press release with the results of their investigation.

Sézary syndrome
There are so-called cutaneous T-cell lymphomas in the human body, which mainly occur on human skin. This malignant disease usually begins at the age of 50 and affects men more often than women (2: 1). The lymphomas form from degenerate T cells in our immune system, the authors explain. There is a special form of this tumor, which is known as Sézary syndrome. So far, there are no cures for this disease. In Sézary syndrome, degenerate cells are not only formed on the skin, they can also be found in the blood of sick people, the scientists say. From there, they are unfortunately able to infect the other human organs.

Many cancer drugs trigger apoptosis
The danger and malignancy of the so-called Sézary syndrome is mainly due to the fact that the cancer cells no longer respond to certain signals, the experts explain. These signals are said to normally induce apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death. Since this is not done, the treatment of the disease is made considerably more difficult. Because most cancer drugs are based on triggering targeted apoptosis of degenerate cells, the doctors add.

To eliminate the survival factor of cancer cells
Fortunately, researchers from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now succeeded in switching off the survival factor in tumor cells. The programmed cell death is then carried out again in the cells, the authors explain. For their project, the researcher led by Karsten Gülow (DKFZ) worked with Jan Nicolay from the dermatology clinic of the University of Mannheim.

NFkappaB makes cells resistant to apoptosis
Our human lymphoma cells contain a kind of important survival factor (NFkappaB). This is permanently active. For this reason, these cells are resistant to apoptosis, explains author Karsten Gülow. Scientists had already tried to use active ingredients to inhibit or eliminate this factor. Unfortunately, these inhibitors were too toxic to be used as a reliable, safe drug, the researchers add.

Scientists are testing the effect of dimethyl fumarate (DMF) on cancer
The specialists from the German Cancer Research Center and the University of Mannheim have now tested the active ingredient dimethyl fumarate (DMF) for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. This also works against NfkappaB, the authors explain. The active ingredient has already been approved as a drug for multiple sclerosis and psoriasis. This is a great advantage, since a lot is known about existing side effects and the time for a completely new development can be saved.

DMF allows cancer tumors to grow more slowly and prevents other organs from becoming infected
The scientists have now investigated the effect of dimethyl fumarate (DMF) on the so-called T cells. They had previously isolated these from the blood of patients with Sézary syndrome. The tumor cells were then transplanted under the skin of mice. There they grew into tumors. The diseased mice were then treated with dimethyl fumarate. After completing the therapy, the physicians observed that the tumors grew more slowly. It was also apparent that DMF selectively kills tumor cells, but healthy cells are spared this effect, the experts explain. Treatment with dimethyl fumarate was able to almost completely prevent metastasis in the transplanted tumors. In other words, the active ingredient helps prevent infestation of other organs, the researchers add.

Effective and better tolerated
DMF appears to be at least comparably effective and at the same time more tolerable than most other active substances that are used against cutaneous lymphomas, explains Peter Krammer from the German Cancer Research Center. The new insights are very promising and that's why we immediately started testing the potential of the drug, Krammer adds. The study was initiated in cooperation between the German Cancer Research Center and the Dermatological Clinic of the University of Mannheim and funded by the Helmholtz Alliance for Immunotherapy. (as)

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