Kidney and breast cancers
Romidepsin and decitabine to treat kidney and breast cancers. Wikimedia Commons

An anti-psychotic drug could treat cancer by neutralising the tumour's growth. Scientists from Cancer Research UK and McMaster University in Ontario have found that an anti-psychotic drug called thioridazine has the capability to cure cancer. The drug transforms cancer stem cells into non-cancerous cells, they have found.

Many researchers believe that cancer stem cells are the source of new cancer cells within a tumour. They claim that these cancer stem cells were resistant to current treatments, which explains why some cancers are so difficult to cure.

To find a cure for cancer stem cells, scientists had used pioneering robotics to test more than a dozen different compounds to identify a drug which could cure or eradicate the cancer stem cells. They found that the anti-psychotic drug does not eradicate the cancer stem cells but converts the cancer stem cells into non cancerous cells, that too, without damaging healthy cells.

"The unusual aspect of our finding is the way this human-ready drug actually kills cancer stem cells by changing them into cells that are non-cancerous," said Dr Mick Bhatia, scientific director at the McMaster's Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

"Now we can test thousands of compounds, eventually defining a candidate drug that has little effect on normal stem cells but kills the cells that start the tumour," he added.

Researchers are planning a clinical trial of thioridazine in combination with standard anti-cancer drugs for adults with acute myeloid leukaemia.

"It's too early to say whether thioridazine could be used to treat cancer patients, but the research opens up some interesting questions for further investigation. Use of thioridazine at dose levels required to treat cancer may well result in significant side effects that limit or prohibit its use. Further research will be needed before we can be sure," said Dr Tim Somervaille, researcher at Cancer Research UK, in a statement.