Drug Used for Diabetes may be an Effective Treatment Against Breast Cancer

By KM Diaz, | March 09, 2017

 Epalrestat has no adverse side effects and is available on the market. It could be used specifically to target the basal-like breast cancer. (YouTube)

Epalrestat has no adverse side effects and is available on the market. It could be used specifically to target the basal-like breast cancer. (YouTube)

There is a metabolic enzyme that triggers an aggressive type of breast cancer. The inhibitor of this enzyme is currently the drug used to treat diabetes, therefore, it could also be an effective therapy to treat this specific type of breast cancer.

Chenfang Dong from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, and his colleague found the AKR1B1 enzyme. It is significantly elevated in basal-like breast cancer that can decrease the survival of patients and increase metastasis rate.

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AKR1B1 is a metabolic enzyme that promotes the progression of basal-like breast cancer. There are about 15 to 20 percent cases of this type of breast cancer. The disease falls into triple-negative breast cancer subtype that quickly spread and metastasize to the lungs and brain. Currently, there is no available therapy for basal-like cancer that is why it is often fatal.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a crucial process to basal-like cancer; the cancer cells turn into motile form and will have stem cell-like properties. This will allow the tumor to grow in other tissues and to resist the treatment.

Epalrestat, on the other hand, is a drug that can inhibit the progression of AKR1B1. It is approved in Japan to treat peripheral neuropathies linked to diabetes. This can likely block the metastasis and growth of basal-like breast cancer cells.

Epalrestat has no adverse side effects and is available on the market. It could be used specifically to target the basal-like breast cancer, Dong noted.

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