Crowd funding bid to test whether malaria drug kills cancer

October 16, 2015, St. George's University of London

Medical experts investigating whether a common malaria drug could have a significant impact on colorectal cancer have launched a crowd funding project to fund their work.

Scientists at St George's, University of London, and St George's Hospital, are in the second phase of research into whether the artesunate, can have a positive effect on colorectal by reducing the multiplication of tumour cells and decreasing the risk of cancer spreading or recurring after surgery. If it does the drug could be used to provide a cheap adjunct to current expensive chemotherapy.

Artesunate is derived from the plant Artemisia Annua also known as Sweet Wormwood. The Chinese scientist Tu Youyou whose research in the 1960s led to the development of artesunate from a plant used in Chinese traditional medicine, was recently awarded the Nobel Prize 2015.

Over one million patients are diagnosed with colorectal cancer globally each year. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common cancer in women and is a leading cause of mortality. In the UK,110 new cases are diagnosed daily, with older patients particularly at risk of death (Ferlay et al 2014). Current treatments involve complex combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Unfortunately all these measures have not increased overall survival rates beyond 60% at the 5 year stage after patients receive a diagnosis. New treatments are urgently needed to improve survival rates. Developing new, effective drugs however can take many years and sometimes even decades. Repurposing safe and established existing drugs for cancer treatment is therefore gaining interest amongst the scientific community.

Professor Sanjeev Krishna, an infectious disease expert at St George's, who jointly-led the study with Professor Devinder Kumar, said: "We recently investigated and subsequently published a small but very informative study of oral artesunate treatment given to patients who were diagnosed with bowel. In a small clinical pilot trial of 20 patients only one patient in the artesunate group had a recurrence of their cancer after 42 months, compared to 6 in the placebo group (those randomised to receive a non-active dummy pill).

"We now need to do larger studies: to see if these encouraging results are confirmed. Our study is designed to change how we manage colorectal cancer, so if people agree that this is important and worthwhile, we would very much value their involvement and contribution."

"I'm extremely excited about this," said Professor Devinder Kumar, who has been a surgeon for three decades. "We already know this is a safe drug that has been taken by tens of millions of people around the world to treat malaria. It only costs about 70p per tablet compared to the £20 or £30 you might expect to spend on a daily dose of chemotherapy.

"If we can repeat the results of this small study in a larger trial this could really be a ground breaker in the treatment of bowel cancer and one that wouldn't bankrupt the NHS."

Explore further: Cheap malaria drug could treat colorectal cancer effectively too, say experts

More information: Sanjeev Krishna et al. A Randomised, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study of Oral Artesunate Therapy for Colorectal Cancer, EBioMedicine (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2014.11.010

Related Stories

Cheap malaria drug could treat colorectal cancer effectively too, say experts

November 18, 2014
Medical experts say a common malaria drug could have a significant impact on colorectal cancer providing a cheap adjunct to current expensive chemotherapy.

Most cancer patients believe surgery will be curative

October 8, 2015
(HealthDay)—Most patients undergoing surgery for lung or colorectal cancer believe that the surgery is likely to be curative, according to a study published in the Oct. 15 issue of Cancer.

Poor survival among colorectal cancer patients tied to biomarker CSN6

August 10, 2015
A protein called CSN6 has been found to be correlated with poor survival among patients with colorectal cancer, according to a study at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Blood test can help some bowel cancer patients avoid unnecessary drug side-effects

March 25, 2015
Manchester researchers have provided early evidence to suggest that a blood test could be used to identify bowel cancer patients that may benefit from more intensive chemotherapy.

AGA recommends all patients with colorectal cancer get tested for Lynch syndrome

September 10, 2015
All colorectal cancer patients should undergo tumor testing to see if they carry Lynch syndrome, the most common inherited cause of colorectal cancer, according to a new guideline published in Gastroenterology, the official ...

Radioactive particles combined with chemotherapy slow advanced bowel cancer growth in the liver

June 2, 2015
A new cancer treatment which injects tiny radioactive 'microspheres' into the liver can slow the growth of tumours that have spread there, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Cancer risk associated with key epigenetic changes occurring through normal aging process

February 22, 2018
Some scientists have hypothesized that tumor-promoting changes in cells during cancer development—particularly an epigenetic change involving DNA methylation—arise from rogue cells escaping a natural cell deterioration ...

NEJM reports positive results for larotrectinib against TRK-fusion cancer

February 22, 2018
In 2013, the labs of University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator Robert C. Doebele, MD, PhD, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigator Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD reported in Nature Medicine the presence of TRK gene ...

Putting black skin cancer to sleep—for good

February 22, 2018
An international research team has succeeded in stopping the growth of malignant melanoma by reactivating a protective mechanism that prevents tumor cells from dividing. The team used chemical agents to block the enzymes ...

New therapeutic gel shows promise against cancerous tumors

February 21, 2018
Scientists at the UNC School of Medicine and NC State have created an injectable gel-like scaffold that can hold combination chemo-immunotherapeutic drugs and deliver them locally to tumors in a sequential manner. The results ...

Five novel genetic changes linked to pancreatic cancer risk

February 21, 2018
In what is believed to be the largest pancreatic cancer genome-wide association study to date, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute, and collaborators from over 80 other ...

Similarities found in cancer initiation in kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas

February 21, 2018
Recent research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis demonstrated that mature cells in the stomach sometimes revert back to behaving like rapidly dividing stem cells. Now, the researchers have found that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.