Maraviroc (known as Celsentri outside the US) is an antiretroviral drug used widely in the treatment of HIV infection.
It works by binding to the chemokine receptor CCR5, a protein which is present on the surface of the white blood cells that operate in the body’s immune system.
It is also the target of the HIV virus which attacks this protein in order to infect the cells and compromise the body’s natural defences.
By bonding with CCR5 the drug effectively shields the protein from attack and reduces the potential damage caused by the infection.
Now scientists at the Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have revealed that this may be the same mechanism used by some forms of cancer when they metastasise to spread through the body, specifically prostate cancer which usually attacks the bone structure.
Currently the spread of prostate cancer into the bone is invariably fatal over time and results in over 10,000 deaths each year in the UK alone.
It is why discovery and treatment of the disease is so time critical and why men over 50 or with a family history of prostate cancer should ensure they are checked regularly.
In their current study however, published in the journal Cancer Research, the American team led by Dr Richard Pestell was able to go on to demonstrate a 60% reduction in the growth of the cancer during laboratory testing on mice.
This opens the possibility of a drug treatment that may at least slow down the spread of the disease or even prevent it becoming fatal.
The same team have also identified the CCR5 receptor as being the genetic route through which breast cancer spreads to the lungs and other organs.
Because the drug is already approved by most government authorities, the scientists hope to be able to move quickly towards clinical trials and its use as a valuable new tool in the treatment of cancer.
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