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HIV Protease Inhibitors Can Also Kill Cancer Cells

Of several tested, nelfinavir was shown to be the most effective in in vitro models

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Clinically approved HIV protease inhibitors such as nelfinavir are effective in killing many types of cancer cells, including drug-resistant cancers, according to a report in the Sept. 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

Phillip A. Dennis, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., tested six clinically approved HIV protease inhibitors on non-small cell lung cancer cells as well as cells from 60 other types of cancers derived from nine different kinds of malignant tissue.

The researchers found that nelfinavir, ritonavir and saquinavir blocked growth and induced cell death by several mechanisms in all the cancers tested. Nelfinavir was effective at clinically relevant concentrations, killed drug-resistant breast cancer cells, and inhibited the growth of non-small cell lung cancers in animals.

"These studies provide a rationale to test nelfinavir as an anti-cancer agent, and suggest that drug repositioning could complement traditional drug development in oncology," Dennis and colleagues conclude.

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