Cardiovascular Drug Shows Promise in Treating Leukemia

Fasudil blocks Rho kinase to treat difficult leukemias

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Acute leukemias occur rapidly and are often extremely difficult to treat. Researchers have found that an existing cardiovascular medication may offer new treatment options.

Fasudil, which is used to treat stroke patients, has been shown to block the action of certain a difficult-to-treat acute myelogenous leukemia.

"Fasudil holds promise as a leukemia drug."

Fasudil is what's known as a vasodilator - it expands blood vessels. The drug also blocks the activity of a protein called  Rho kinase - ROCK - which is involved with leukemias.

In studying the effect of genetic mutations in leukemia, Reuben Kapur, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, demonstrated that ROCK appeared to be hyperactive in leukemia cells.

When these cells were exposed to the ROCK inhibitor Fasudil, growth was slowed and significantly extended the lives of mice with leukemia.

While Fasudil is known to target ROCK, Kapur says it hasn't been tested as a leukemia therapy.

Still, he says that most patients who develop acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) are older and have to endure extensive chemotherapy.

Finding other, more tolerable ways to treat AML in older patients would be very useful, Kapur notes.

He concludes that Fasudil, whether used alone or in combination with other existing drugs, may have a good deal of potential in treating AML and other forms of leukemia.

This research appears in September 13, 2011 issue of the journal Cancer Cell.

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Review Date: 
September 13, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012