According to The Asahi Shimbun today, researchers from Kyoto University (in Japan) have discovered that a drug used to treat AIDS also kills adult T-cell leukemia (ATL) cancer cells, a finding that offers hope to tens of thousands of sufferers in Japan.
It is estimated that 1.08 million people in Japan have a virus that causes ATL, of which about five percent develop the full-blown cancer.
The team of researchers will start clinical studies as early as this autumn to determine if the drug, Abacavir, can be employed as a treatment for ATL.
Current medicines and other treatments, such as the transplanting of bone marrow, have produced only limited results in the treatment of ATL.
The findings will be published in the U.S. magazine Science Advances on April 25.
ATL occurs when a T-cell, a type of white blood cell, is infected with the “human T-lymphotropic virus 1” (HTLV-1). The infection is conveyed from mother to child through breast milk. If ATL develops, the infected cells proliferate and spread throughout the body.
AIDS is caused by a similar type of virus. Using cultured ATL cells, the researchers tested various medicines used to treat AIDS to see whether some were effective against ATL. They found that Abacavir prevented the virus from making DNA.