Study finds cancer drug could also treat atherosclerosis

blood clotting

A preclinical animal study, published in the journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, reveals that low doses of a drug that is being developed to clear solid tumours and blood cancers, has also been shown to reduce the number of platelets in the blood.

This finding has significant implications for atherosclerosis with the study indicating that this drug could help reduce plaque build-up caused by diabetes, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Senior author, Professor Andrew Murphy, Head of the Baker Institute’s Haematopoiesis and Leukocyte Biology Lab, says that while his previous work shows that diabetes increases the number of platelets in the blood, which could be one factor driving increased levels of atherosclerosis, people with diabetes typically don’t tend to respond well to standard anti-platelet therapies.

“By using this drug that causes physiological cell death … we reduced the numbers of platelets in the blood to ‘normal levels’,” says Professor Murphy.

“This then decreased atherosclerosis in mice with diabetes to similar levels of animals without diabetes.

“These findings show drugs traditionally targeted to treat cancer could be repurposed at sub-toxic doses as interventions to limit cardiovascular disease in high-risk settings such as diabetes.”

Professor Murphy adds that the “drug also has the ability to dampen platelet activity”, which makes platelets less reactive, and “less likely to form dangerous clots”.

According to Professor no negative side effects were observed using this low dose approach, and because other drugs are already being used to target this pathway in cancer treatment, progressing to a therapy that could be used in humans to treat cardiovascular disease could be straightforward.

To read the study, visit:

This study was a collaboration with scientists at Monash University and Ohio State University.