A new truly-soluble drug containing liquid aspirin, could offer a valuable treatment option for patients with a type of brain tumor known as glioblastoma. Researchers from the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, found that the soluble drug was able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
The blood-brain barrier is a semi-permeable membrane, which allows certain molecules to pass through, while preventing pathogens and other foreign substances from entering the brain. While this membrane is integral to protect the brain, cancer drug developers have faced numerous challenges in designing therapies that are able to pass through the barrier.
Many cancer drugs used to fight tumors in other parts of the body are too large to fit through the blood-brain barrier. Previous research has suggested that aspirin has anti-cancer properties, however currently-available liquid forms of the drug are not fully soluble. Instead, these drugs contain small particles of solid aspirin which can cause gastric side effects when taken orally.
In collaboration with Innovate Pharmaceuticals, the University of Portsmouth researchers developed the soluble drug, named IP1867B, which contains aspirin along with two other compounds. These ingredients have been show to destroy cancer cells without damaging the surrounding healthy brain tissue, and all three compounds have already been approved for clinical use.
In testing the drug on tumor cells and tissue collected from adults and children with brain cancer, the researchers found that IP1867B was ten times more effective at treating glioblastoma compared to any combination of currently-available treatments for the cancer. Glioblastoma is one of the most common and deadly forms of brain cancer in adults.
“This is a potential game-changer for research into brain tumours and clearly shows what sustainable research is able to achieve,” said Sue Farrington Smith, chief executive of Brain Tumour Research. “It is science like this that will enable us to eventually find a cure for this devastating disease which kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.” The researchers say that further preclinical development must be done before the soluble aspirin can enter early-stage clinical trials involving humans.