Fungal Nail Infection Treating Pill Could Help Cure Bowel Cancer

By Varsha Pappachan

According to a study, bowel cancer or colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer across the world, with breast cancer and lung cancer being at the first and second spots. Among men, it is the third most common cancer, while the second most in women.

According to a study by scientists at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, an anti-fungal drug called itraconazole, commonly used for the treatment of ailments such as fungal nail infections, has the capability to destroy inactive bowel cancer cells. These cells are otherwise known to be immune to conventional chemotherapy.

Pill used to treat fungal nail infections could cure bowel cancer

Dr Simon Buczacki, co-lead author and Cancer Research UK clinician scientist, said: "One of the biggest challenges in treating any cancer is the diversity of different cells within the same tumour. We've targeted a type of cell that lies asleep within bowel tumours, remaining unresponsive to treatment and putting the patient at risk of their cancer coming back."

The recent experiments were carried out on mice and the results were spectacular! These tumour cells are the main reason behind spreading of cancer or relapsing of it even after a chemotherapy treatment.

The anti-fungal pill - Itraconazole - is potentially capable of eliminating these cells that are in the 'sleeping' status, thereby terminating their chances of regrowth. Based on the promising results on mice, the scientists hope to initiate trials on humans for the therapy.

Let us explore more about bowel cancer and the actively promoted treatment of it by the anti-fungal medication called Itraconazole.

What Is Bowel Cancer?

Cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth or division of malignant abnormal cells within any part or parts of the body. The various kinds of cancers are breast cancer, lung cancer, bowel cancer, Leukemia, melanoma, etc.

Bowel cancer is considered as the third most common cancer occurring worldwide. It develops from the colon or rectum and is therefore based at the lower end of the digestive tract.

Symptoms Of Bowel Cancer

The symptoms of bowel cancer may be prevalent depending on its location within the body. Also, in some cases, the symptoms could take a long time to develop. The common symptoms include loss of weight, blood in stool, narrow stool, change in bowel habits, nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, tiredness or lethargy, etc.

What Are The Risk Factors And Causes Of Bowel Cancer?

Age Factor: People above the age of 50 or so are at a higher risk of bowel cancer. However, in recent times, even many younger people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Diet & Lifestyle: Having excess alcohol, red or processed meat, or a diet low in fibre, consuming less water, smoking, lack of physical exercise, obesity, etc. are some of the most common reasons for causing bowel cancer.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease: People suffering from ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (inflammation causing diseases in the colon rectum or any part of the gastrointestinal tract), are at high risk of bowel cancer. The severity of the inflammation would directly affect the chances of bowel cancer.

Genetics: Bowel cancers do get caused due to genetic factors, although the overall percentage of cases reported due to genetics may be up to 5%.

Treatment For Bowel Cancer

The usual treatment process for bowel cancer may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, palliative care, follow-up care, and exercise. The kind of treatment to be provided to a patient may depend on various factors, such as the health of the individual, the stage of the cancer, etc.

Prognosis Of Bowel Cancer

Since bowel cancers are known to be slowly-growing and may take many years to develop, in a lot of cases they are diagnosed at a much later stage. The earlier the detection, the more are the chances of survival for the individual.

What Is Itraconazole Used For?

Itraconazole is used to treat various fungal infections and is commonly used for treating fungal nail infection. It is recognized by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the essential medicines.

Effect Of Itraconazole On Cancer Cells As Per The Experiment Conducted On Mice

As mentioned earlier, this pill was found to be most useful in wiping out the cancer-causing cells in mice, after a series of experiments were conducted on them. The observations made by these experiments highlighted the following:

• Itraconazole works on a part of the lifecycle of bowel cancer by blocking the Wnt signalling pathways, which are defined as a group of signal transduction pathways and are made of proteins. These Wnt signalling pathways pass signals into cells through the receptors on the cell surface, and therefore play a major part in the growth as well as spreading of cancer. Itraconazole easily stops the growth of the tumour by obstructing the Wnt.

• The second observation was the effect of Itraconazole on both dormant and non-dormant cells. According to Dr Buczacki. "Itraconazole forces cells back into a short cycle of growth before slamming on an irreversible 'stop' button, entering a permanent standstill that's known as senescence."

Treatment Of Bowel Cancer In Humans

The testing of Itraconazole in human beings is yet to be started, and further results need to be investigated accordingly. The researchers within the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute stand divided on their opinion regarding the overall termination of bowel cancer by the usage of Itraconazole.

This is because some of these researchers were not a part of these experiments on mice using Itraconazole. These researchers feel that the reduction in recurrence of cancer cells at an early stage in mice may have been proved using Itraconazole; however, a lot more research and study is required before concluding its positive effects on humans.

Furthermore, its effectiveness at various stages of the cancer needs to be clearly determined. Also, in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy, the effect of Itraconazole needs to be investigated.

Hopes Of A Successful Trial!

Considering the severity and high fatality rate of bowel cancer worldwide, hopes have certainly risen on the positive outcome of advanced research and study on the usage of itraconazole to curb the excess growth of cancer cells. Let us hope that the further experiments yield favourable results.

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    Read more about: cancer health
    Story first published: Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 10:15 [IST]
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