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Cancer drugs could tackle alcoholism

Research shows that some cancer drugs could be used to tackle alcohol addiction.

Previous studies have already shown that the “happy hour” gene, which was discovered in flies, affects animals’ sensitivity to alcohol.

But further investigation into how the gene works has led scientists to try cancer drugs as potential alcoholism therapies.

The gene blocks the action of epidermal growth factor (EGF), which stimulates cell growth, but certain cancer drugs, including Tarceva and Iressa, do the same thing.

The study, reported in the journal Cell, shows that mice and rats treated with Tarceva grow more sensitive to alcohol.

Rats given the cancer drug spontaneously consumed less alcohol when it was freely available to them. But their taste for another enjoyable drink, sugared water, was unaffected.

Dr Ulrike Heberlein, from the University of California at San Francisco, said: “This is a very powerful example of how simple model organisms – and the little fruit fly in particular – can be used to move quickly from an unknown gene to a potential therapy for drug addiction.”

It is hoped the study can be used to further understanding into alcoholism, which has been linked to a strong genetic component.

Copyright Press Association 2009

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