(CTN News) – Breast cancers that are resistant to existing treatments are being treated at UT Health San Antonio’s Mays Cancer Center, South Texas’ only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center.
UT Health San Antonio’s Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine found compelling evidence that the drug works against cancer. It led to a clinical trial at Mays Cancer Center that helped 15 breast cancer patients.
The antidepressant imipramine was approved by the FDA in 1959 for the treatment of depression.
Researchers have found anecdotally that it also appears to have anticancer activity, said Ratna Vadlamudi, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and co-director of the Mays Cancer Center’s Cancer Development and Progression Program.
Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and young scholars train in the Vadlamudi laboratory.
Vadlamudi, who has made many cancer research discoveries, advised his protégés that the National Cancer Institute prioritizes the repurposing of FDA-approved drugs as cancer treatments.
Arhan Rao, the youngest team member, saw the approved drug library. Observations were made by Rao. Ipiramine might be a suitable target for the laboratory. He and his team agreed.
It’s an exciting result. In mice and humans, imipramine inhibits triple-negative breast cancer and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. Patients with these cancers are notoriously difficult to treat.
The journal UT Health Cancer Letters published the team’s findings:
Cancers with estrogen receptors are stunted by imipramine as it reduces estrogen signaling.
It also interferes with DNA repair, limiting the survival of triple-negative breast cancer. Because DNA is constantly under attack from factors like radiation from the sun, DNA repair is extremely critical for all cells. (DNA contains the genetic instructions our bodies need to function.) Cancer cells are vulnerable without DNA repair.)
Virginia Kaklamani, MD, director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Mays Cancer Center and professor of medicine at the Long School of Medicine, led this clinical trial. Ipramine was given to women with breast cancer awaiting surgery.
We typically have two to three weeks between diagnosis and surgery, so this is an excellent opportunity to administer drugs and test their effects on cancerous tissue.
Initial diagnosis includes a biopsy and another tissue specimen is obtained during surgery. As a result, we can see how the cancer has changed with imipramine treatment,” Kaklamani said. “We did that in 15 patients, and overall, we were able to show that imipramine can decrease tumor growth.”
According to Vadlamudi, FDA-approved drugs are safe because they are used to treat other illnesses. In the event that the same drugs are capable of killing cancer cells, then they can be used in clinics as soon as possible.”
In addition, this is a shining example of the National Cancer Institute’s goal to repurpose existing drug therapies for cancer. This gives hope to South Texas women and to patients worldwide.
UT Health San Antonio conducts more than 1,700 human research studies, including 450 clinical trials. Cancer treatments and endodontics are among the clinical trials.
With a $360 million annual research portfolio, the University of Texas UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) is the largest research institution in South Texas.
With six professional schools, 7,900 employees, an annual operating budget of $1.08 billion, and clinical practices that provide 2.6 million patient visits a year, UT Health San Antonio intends to add more than 1,500 higher-wage jobs over the next five years to serve San Antonio, Bexar County, and South Texas.