Psyching out cancer stem cells: using old antipsychotic drug as a new weapon against cancer

cancer stem cellsMany folks believe that if you can kill or otherwise inactivate cancer stem cells, you’ve gone a long way to curing many types of cancer. However the cells have remained elusive.

Now, Mick Bhatia’s lab has found that the antipsychotic drug, Thioridazine, has activity against cancer stem cells.

The work, published in Cell (read paper here), indicates that Thioridazine works not by killing cancer stem cells, but rather by encouraging the stem cells to differentiate.

Bhatia’s group used a novel screening approach (see graphical abstract from the paper above) to find molecules that specifically differentiate cancer stem cells. Interestingly they found Thioridazine, which intriguingly targets the dopamine receptor expressed on certain cancer stem cells. Bhatia can be seen in the interview below talking about the finding.

You might think then that Thioridazine would be safe because it only targets cells expressing dopamine receptor, however the drug reportedly has significant safety concerns due to causing fatal heart arrhythmias and regulators have largely phased it out in both Canada and the U.S..

Even so, it may be safe for cancer treatments since it could be used for a much shorter period of time, speculated Bhatia. However it is still early days in this story so there is much to learn about this new route to attacking cancer. Still, a very exciting and important development.




1 thought on “Psyching out cancer stem cells: using old antipsychotic drug as a new weapon against cancer”

  1. Daniel Haszard comment-Thioridazine is in the class of ‘typical’ antipsychotics called phenothiazines of which ‘Thorazine’ is best known.This group is 50 years old and I have been taking Thorazine for 2 years for my PTSD to help me sleep.Continued research may show that it is the whole class of phenothiazines that have anti-cancer properties.

    {“..researchers believe it will be safer for cancer patients because they’re only on it for eight to 21 days instead of a number of years, and they take half the dose…”
    “..McMaster has since discovered schizophrenia patients who took the drug had 10 times fewer instances of cancer…”}

    A cancer suppressive side effect of antipsychotic drugs would be a wonderful blessing.

    A patient speaks:
    There are two kinds of antipsychotics the 50 year old tried and tested inexpensive *typical* antipsychotics like Thorazine,and the newer so-called *atypicals* like Risperdal,Seroquel,Zyprexa.
    These drugs are lifesavers for those with delusional mental illness which is only 1 percent of the population.
    The saga of the so called *atypical antipsychotics* is one of incredible profit.Eli Lilly made $65 BILLION on Zyprexa franchise (*Viva Zyprexa* Lilly sales rep slogan).

    Described as *the most successful drug in the history of neuroscience* the drugs at $12 pill are used by states to medicate deinstitutionalized mental patients to keep them out of the $500-$1,200 day hospitals.There is a whole underclass block of our society,including children in foster care that are the market for these drugs,but have little voice of protest if harmed by them.I am an exception,I got diabetes from Zyprexa as an off-label treatment for PTSD and I am not a mentally challenged victim so I post.

    Google-Haszard Zyprexa
    –Daniel Haszard

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: