A British research team has discovered that naltrexone, widely used to treat alcohol or heroin addiction, can halt the progression of breast cancer and destroy cancer cells when given in low doses.
A team of researchers from St George’s, University of London in the UK has discovered anticancer properties of naltrexone, a drug widely used to treat addicts.
The researchers found that the drug, when given in low doses, could not only stop cancer cells growing, but also destroy them, thanks to an immune system made more hostile to the disease.
By experimenting with the mode, dose and frequency of the drug’s administration, the scientists discovered anticancer properties of naltrexone: “We saw that by giving the drug for two days, then withdrawing it, cancer cells would stop cycling and undergo cell death,” explains Dr Liu, who led the research team, and who has spent 20 years researching cancer treatment.
Two other drugs, not currently classed as cancer therapies, are also being explored for potential anticancer effects — the antimalarial drug artesunate and cannabinoids, derived from cannabis.
The researchers hope to start clinical trials soon with the aim of using naltrexone in conjunction with other cancer treatments.
Previous studies have found that naltrexone may reduce symptoms linked to Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia and Parkinson’s disease. It can be prescribed for these conditions on a case by case basis.
The findings were published in the International Journal of Oncology.