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Antabuse May Also Beat Brain Tumors

The alcoholism drug has been found to fight glioblastoma, a common and deadly form of brain cancer.

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The brain's got a friend in disulfiram.
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By Valerie Tejeda

10/25/12

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A drug that's been used for decades to help alcoholics dry out may also help eradicate deadly brain tumors, researchers say. The drug disulfiram (branded under the name: Antabuse) enhances the body's sensitivity to alcohol—which makes drinking physically unpleasant—and it has been used for over 60 years to help wean alcoholics off the sauce. But British researchers have now discovered another life-saving use for the drug: it could be used to fight glioblastoma—a common, and deadly, form of brain cancer. In lab tests, the drug was found to kill glioblastoma cells, especially when combined with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine. The research—published in the British Journal of Cancer—is promising, especially since the drug has been safely used on alcoholics for decades. “One of the big challenges in cancer treatment is how to successfully kill tumour cells without harming the surrounding tissues," says Dr Julie Sharp, from Cancer Research UK, which owns the journal. “Drugs like this one, which can both penetrate the blood brain barrier and increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy, could play an important role in overcoming the problem of resistance to help improve the outlook for people with brain tumours.”

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