Researchers at the Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Portsmouth say the drug – made of a combination of aspirin, triacetin and saccharin – is able to cross the ‘blood brain barrier’ which has previously stopped cancer drugs attacking the tumour.
Dr Richard Hill from the university lead the research team, working with the University of Algarve in Portugal, the University of Liverpool and Innovate Pharmaceuticals to examine the drug, known as IP1867B.
Dr Hill said: ‘To produce a completely new drug takes many years and is very expensive. By focusing our efforts on testing novel formulation techniques, we can move closer to a treatment more quickly than would otherwise be possible.
‘The drug we have been testing seems to combine well with other drugs and can help to make them more effective. The blood brain barrier stops viruses entering the brain but means chemotherapy treatments are also blocked from getting in.
‘Our models show the drug can get past the barrier and that is exciting and something we want to test further.’
A study, published in the journal Cancer Letters, suggests that IP1867B could be effective against glioblastoma (GBM), one of the most aggressive forms of human brain cancer, which kills thousands of patients within a year.
Katie Sheen, Research Manager at Brain Tumour Research, which funds the University of Portsmouth research group, added: ‘Our work on combining drugs is a vital and key part of our ongoing developments in the fight against brain tumours, which are an incredibly complex form of cancer.
‘Being able to take existing drugs that have already been approved for use in humans, developing them in novel ways and applying them in the treatment of brain tumours offers much hope for the future.’
The next step is to take IP1867B into a ‘first in human’ trial which is being driven by Innovate Pharmaceuticals.
Medical director at the company, Dr James Stuart, said: ‘The action of ‘turning cold tumours hot’ alongside the reversal of acquired resistance, boosting combination efficacy and a possible lowering of side effect burden makes IP1867B a true breakthrough in cancer treatment.’