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SA researchers exploring use of re-purposed cancer drugs to combat deadly TB
June 22, 2018

Texas Biomedical Research Institute President and CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger, right, with Eusondia Arnett, who is leading a research team at the San Antonio campus studying the use of re-purposed cancer drugs to fight tuberculosis.

By W. Scott Bailey – Senior Reporter, San Antonio Business Journal

Scientists at San Antonio’s Texas Biomedical Research Institute are studying the effectiveness of promising experimental cancer chemotherapy drugs in defeating another life-threatening disease — tuberculosis, or TB.

That exploration could help beat back an illness that has surpassed AIDS as the world’s single most lethal infectious disease.

A scientific team led by Texas Biomed’s Eusondia Arnett have pinpointed a mechanism in regulating cell death called apoptosis that is a potential new target for helping control the bacterial infection Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or M.tb, that causes the lung disease TB. Arnett and her colleagues have been testing the theory for roughly two years, using human immune cells called macrophages and infecting them with M.tb in the lab. Through their study, the scientific team has been able to test their theory that pathways regulated by a master regulator of gene expression are a good target for intervention to halt the progression of the disease.

Nearly 20 people develop TB and four people die from the disease every minute somewhere in the world. Texas Biomed’s work could have profound implications on global health.

Arnett said if researchers can stimulate apoptosis in M.tb-infected cells, then there is an avenue for reducing M.tb growth and “increased control of TB.”

Cancer drugs similar to those used in the study are already in use in U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved Phase II clinical trials. The next step for Texas Biomed researchers is to better understand the effectiveness of this therapy through testing on a mouse model and then a non-human primate, before launching human trials.

Texas Biomed President and CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger, senior investigator of the new multiyear study, said the research reinforces the fact that there is a real opportunity for scientists and for the institute to “forge new ways to use current knowledge to create novel strategies for host-directed therapy for infection to be used along with antibiotics.”

Texas Biomed’s work has been supported in part by National Institutes of Health grant funding.

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