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Brain Tumor Cells Killed By Anti-Nausea Drug

Mar 22, 2013 09:54 AM EDT

Brain tumor growth can be halted by a drug currently being used in patients recovering from the side effects of chemotherapy, a new study from Australia states.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide made the discovery when looking at the relationship between brain tumors and "substance P," a peptide associated with inflammation in the brain.

The nervous system will typically release substance P following a traumatic brain injury or stroke, contributing to tissue swelling.

"Researchers have known for some time that levels of substance P are also greatly increased in different tumor types around the body," said Dr. Elizabeth Harford-Wright, a postdoctoral fellow in the University's Adelaide Centre for Neuroscience Research.

"We wanted to know if these elevated levels of the peptide were also present in brain tumor cells, and if so, whether or not they were affecting tumor growth. Importantly, we wanted to see if we could stop tumor growth by blocking substance P."

Harford-Wright found that levels of substance P were greatly increased in brain tumor tissue.

Knowing that substance P will bind to a receptor called NK1, Harford-Wright attempted to stop substance P from binding with NK1 with a drug called Emend, which is used in cancer clinics to help patients with chemotherapy-induced nausea.

The results were a breakthrough for cancer treatment research.

"We were successful in blocking substance P from binding to the NK1 receptor, which resulted in a reduction in brain tumor growth - and it also caused cell death in the tumor cells," Harford-Wright said.

"So preventing the actions of substance P from carrying out its role in brain tumors actually halted the growth of brain cancer. This is a very exciting result, and it offers further opportunities to study possible brain tumor treatments over the coming years."

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