Chemo Drug May Fight Brain Tumors in Kids

In mice, rapamycin normalized growth of brain cells

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FRIDAY, April 1, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- A long-available chemotherapy drug, rapamycin, may prove effective against childhood brain tumors, researchers report.

"We have discovered a new target for chemotherapy in these tumors, and we don't have to start from scratch because these drugs are already approved chemotherapy agents," senior investigator Dr. David H. Gutmann, said in a prepared statement. Gutmann is a professor of genetics and pediatrics and co-director of the neuro-oncology program at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo.

He and his team used a mouse brain tumor model of a common human genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis 1, which makes children prone to brain and other cancers. The researchers found rapamycin normalized the growth of brain cells in the mice.

"The same pathway that rapamycin acted on in the mouse cells also is abnormally activated in neurofibromatosis-associated brain tumors from human patients, so we're very excited about the possibility that this may be an effective treatment in children with neurofibromatosis 1," Gutmann said.

The findings appear in the April 1 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

"The next logical step for us is to begin treating the Nf1 brain tumor-prone mice with rapamycin," Gutmann said. "If we are effective at treating the mouse tumors, we have every reason to believe that this may be equally effective for treating patients with brain tumors associated with neurofibromatosis 1."

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about childhood brain tumors.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, April 1, 2005

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