Finding potential leukemia drugs that may be hiding in plain sight

Schimmer_2.jpgDr. Aaron Schimmer has developed a specialty in the area of ‘drug recycling’—applying old drugs in new ways.  Most recently, in October 2011, he and his team published research in the journal Cancer Cell.  It described how they tested 500 drugs approved for use in humans for their efficacy against leukemia cells and leukemia stem cells.

One drug in particular, called tigecycline, an antibiotic used to treat skin and abdominal infections, was found to be quite potent in destroying leukemia stem cells by cutting off the cell’s energy production.

“If you think of all the cells in the body as a power grid, we’ve discovered that tigecycline can cause a power outage in leukemia stem cells, while still keeping the lights on in all the healthy cells,” says Dr. Schimmer, a clinician scientist at The Princess Margaret. 

Dr. Schimmer also credits the technology that they were able to use as a major part of the success.  A high-speed, pipette-handling robot tested varying doses of each drug to see if any affected leukemia cells.
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