Previously known drug could help treat leukaemia better: NUS study

SINGAPORE - Scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have uncovered a possible new way of treating leukaemia that could save more sufferers of the deadly cancer of the blood.

The team from the university's Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore) suspect that a previously known drug called a PARP inhibitor, normally used to treat only types of cancer that cause damaged DNA, will prove effective in treating leukaemia when used together with standard chemotherapy drugs.

This is because in leukaemia, a gene known as RUNX is often mutated. This same gene, the scientists found, is responsible for repairing damaged DNA.

Leukaemia was not previously thought to be associated with damaged DNA, but the scientists now think it could be.

"Common sense is often a veil that keeps us from understanding the truth. PARP inhibitoprs have been with us for quite some time, but nobody has realised their application for leukaemia," said CSI Singapore's research associate Professor Motomi Osato.

Early tests using cell cultures have demonstrated that the PARP inhibitors are effective in treating leukaemia. CSI Singapore's work was published in the leading biology journal Cell Reports last month. More studies are planned.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.