Leukaemia patients too frail for chemotherapy could be treated by combining cholesterol-lowering medication with a contraceptive pill, according to scientists.
First UK clinical trials showed the drugs were safer than the intensive therapy for some sufferers of acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), researchers at the University of Birmingham said.
A study of 20 AML patients showed none suffered side effects associated with chemotherapy, and their survival rate increased by several months after being treated with Medroxyprogesterone Acetate, a female contraceptive drug, and the cholesterol-reducing Bezafibrate.
All patients were expected to survive for about two months without treatment, but lived on for an average of five months.
The research, published in the online British Journal of Haematology, shows the two medications block a key enzyme and destroy AML cells.
Leader researcher Chris Bunce said: “Normal chemotherapy can be fatal for frail patients because it attacks healthy blood cells as well as the leukaemia cells. This new treatment for AML is very exciting because it only targets the leukaemia cells.
“It has no significant toxicities, which means that in future trials we can use higher doses of the drugs that our laboratory-based studies suggest will generate even more promising survival rates for patients.”
Copyright Press Association 2010