Diabetes Drug Might Also Treat Breast Cancer
A new Chinese study has found that a diabetes drug called epalrestat could also treat a particularly lethal and aggressive type of breast cancer. The way that the drug works interrupts not only a problem common in diabetics, but also one that could be feeding some types of breast cancer growth.
Epalrestat is often prescribed in Japan for peripheral neuropathies that are associated with diabetes, works by blocking certain signalling pathway in cell development. In this particular form of breast cancer, that blockage also inhibits a reaction that allows cancer cells to slip past immune system defenses and grow quickly.
Where epalrestat can improve breast cancer patient outcomes it is also helpful in treating the most serious long-term affects associated with diabetes.
Epalrestat is approved in Japan for treating neuropathies that are common after-effects of diabetes, such as neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy. These are what cause diabetic blindness, uncontrollable shakes, palsy, and more.
Epalrestat works as an aldose reductase inhibitor (ARI), which can reduce accumulation of intercellular sorbitol. Intercellular sorbitol buildup is what is believed to be the cause of diabetic-related neuropathies. Alose reductase is the key enzyme in the pathway towards creating the link between intercellular sorbitol and neural cell dysfunction.
It so happens that this same action by the ARI also inhibits a chain reaction (called a "feedback loop") in a common, aggressive, and almost untreatable breast cancer as well. So the drug, common in much of Asia including China and Japan, may have dual uses.
Epalrestat is currently being evaluated for approval in the United States.