Using a tapeworm killer to treat ovarian cancer
Ovarian cancer is the 8th most common cancer in women worldwide with nearly 300,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Survival rates have nearly doubled in the last 40 years thanks to more targeted approaches to therapy. Despite these advances, in developed countries such as the UK, only around 35% of women will survive for 10 years or more following diagnosis. Nearly 80% of all deaths from ovarian cancer are caused by an aggressive subtype of the disease called high grade serous ovarian cancer.
Dr Chit Fang Cheok, based at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore, is testing new use for a drug called niclosamide, commonly used to treat tapeworm infection, to see if it can target high grade serous ovarian cancer cells. Nearly all cases of this ovarian cancer bear a mutation in the p53 gene, which in healthy cells acts as a molecular guardian, protecting the cell from becoming cancerous. Potentially, niclosamide could be effective in eradicating high grade serous ovarian cancer cells that carry a mutant form of p53.