A new study conducted by researchers at the Brain Tumor Research Center at the University of Plymouth has found that the drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS may be effective in the treatment of low-grade brain tumors. The study’s researchers believe that ARVs could be prescribed for patients who have been diagnosed with acoustic neuroma and meningioma brain tumors, which often grow back after radiotherapy and surgery.
Meningioma is a common primary tumor that may become cancerous as time goes by. This tumor develops from cells found in the meninges, which protect the spinal cord and the brain. On the other hand, an acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous type of brain tumor that develops in Schwann cells.
Prior studies from the researchers showed that a tumor suppressor known as Merlin contributed to the development of acoustic neuroma and meningioma tumors. The suppressor was also found to contribute to NF2 (neurofibromatosis). In normal cells, tumor suppressors help repair errors in DNA. However, when they are absent or don’t work properly, they create an environment favorable for cancer growth.
The researchers’ objective in this latest study was to look into the role certain sections in the human DNA played in tumor development. These sections, labelled endogenous retrovirus HERV-K, are stable human DNA elements that are based on the remains of past infections of our primate ancestors.
Senior research fellow Dr. Sylwia Ammoun stated that previous studies had linked high HERV-K protein levels to tumor development. In the study, the team of researchers found that high levels of proteins produced by HERV-K DNA were present in the acoustic neuroma and meningioma cells obtained from patients with these tumors.
The researchers also identified molecular events that could allow HERV-K proteins to stimulate tumor growth. In addition to this, they were able to identify some drugs that could target these proteins and help decrease the growth of grade I meningioma cells and Schwann cells in the lab. These drugs include lopinavir, atazanavir and ritonavir, all of which are retroviral protease inhibitors that have been approved in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom for the treatment of HIV and AIDS.
Brain Tumor Research spokesman Hugh Adams stated that the study’s findings were important as the repurposing of drugs was a good way to speed up testing of new approaches into clinical trials that, if proven successful, could soon be given to patients with brain tumors. Given the lack of a variety treatment options for these types of tumors, a new and effective approach is welcome as entities such as CNS Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: CNSP) intensify their search for better treatments for brain cancers.
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