Monday, August 04, 2008

Methadone Promising in Hard-To-Treat Leukemia

By Karla Gale
Reuters, August 1, 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Methadone, a drug used to treat people addicted to heroin and other opioid drugs, holds promise as a new treatment for leukemia, especially treatment-resistant leukemia, according to results of a study.

Laboratory tests show that methadone kills leukemia cells without harming healthy blood cells, researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany report in a paper published today in the journal Cancer Research. Methadone was even effective in killing leukemia cells resistant to killing by chemotherapy and radiation.

"Leukemia cells express opioid receptors, to which methadone binds," study chief Dr. Claudia Friesen told Reuters Health. "Surprisingly, we found that methadone kills leukemia cells efficiently. We never expected that."

These results "provide the foundation for new strategies using methadone as an additional anticancer drug in leukemia therapy, especially when conventional therapies are less effective," the investigators conclude.

"We find this very exciting, because once conventional treatments fail, which occurs in old and also in young patients, they have no other options," Friesen said.

She predicts that methadone will have similar effects in other cancers that express opioid receptors. "In our lab we found that we also can kill solid tumors," she added.

Friesen and her team are studying methadone alone and in combination with other chemotherapy drugs in animal models of cancer.

SOURCE: Cancer Research, August 1, 2008.

Other Links

Methadone Breaks Resistance In Untreatable Forms Of Leukemia
Science Daily, August 4, 2008

Methadone Kills Resistant Leukemia Cells
HealthDay News, August 1, 2008

Lab Study Shows Methadone Breaks Resistance in Untreatable Forms of Leukemia
American Association for Cancer Research, August 1, 2008

Posted: August 4, 2008

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