Addiction Drug Could Potentially Fight Cancer

Naltrexone was found to stop cancer cell growth and promote apoptosis.

Researchers recently found that low doses of the addiction treatment naltrexone (LDN) could potentially be beneficial for patients with cancer.

A study published in the Journal of International Oncology indicates naltrexone causes cancer cells to stop growing and can reactivate genes the promote cell killing. The drug can also make the immune system more unfriendly to cancer cells.

"We have shown that the genetic fingerprint of naltrexone differs according to the different doses used, which identifies new ways of using it as an anti-cancer treatment,” said researcher Wai Liu, PhD. "Rather than stopping the cancer cells from growing, patients want to be rid of them. We saw that by giving the drug for two days, then withdrawing it, cancer cells would stop cycling and undergo cell death."

Currently, naltrexone is used for heroin and alcohol addiction, but is also used off label for multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.

Researchers are hoping their findings will lead to clinical trials for patients with cancer, according to the study.

"We have taken a drug that is relatively safe in humans, and reformulated a new use for it; this has only been possible by understanding the dynamics of a drug. How many other drugs can be improved in this way?” Dr Liu concluded. "This helps clinicians to devise new ways to tackle a disease that affects so many."