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Cattle Antibiotic Slows Prostate Cancer Growth

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

An antibiotic called monensin, used in the meat and dairy industry, is found by Finnish researchers to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.

Compound slows Prostate Cancer with no Effect on Normal Prostate Tissue

In a study, the drug, combined with small amounts of the compounds disulfiram (Antabus), thiram and tricostatin A, slowed prostate cancer cell growth without interfering with normal prostate tissue.

The researchers say the findings are of interest to drug companies seeking to find new uses for existing drugs that have known actions and side effects. In studies, the monensin compound was also found to kill prostate cancer cells by reducing testosterone receptor.

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The drug also potentiated the action of anti-androgens used for treating the disease because it induces the production of reactive oxygen species.

Senior researchers Kristiina Iljin from VTT and Research Scientist Kirsi Ketola from the University of Turku says, “These research findings give rise to a potential new use for the monensin.” Monensin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic that has been used to build muscle mass in cattle, leading the researchers to suspect it might have a role in androgen signaling.

The authors wrote, ‘Current treatment options for advanced and hormone refractory prostate cancer are limited and responses to commonly used androgen pathway inhibitors are often unsatisfactory. Our recent results indicated that sodium ionophore monensin is one of the most potent and cancer-specific inhibitors in a systematic sensitivity testing of most known drugs and drug-like molecules in a panel of prostate cancer cell models.”

The scientists studied 5000 drugs to find that potential for the antibiotic compound for treating prostate cancer. They suggest small amounts of monensin compounded with other agents that induce oxidative stress in prostate cancer cells could provide a new treatment option for treating the disease that causes 300,000 deaths annually.

Mol Cancer Ther; 9(12); 3175–85. ©2010 AACR.