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Can Cancer Drugs Be Used to Counter Bio-terrorist Threats?

Cancer Drugs

A research team have been given a grant to see if two cancer medications have the potential of protecting U.S. troops from biological agents that could be unleashed during an attack.

U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), part of the U.S. Department of Defense, has hired Mark Buller, Ph.D., professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Saint Louis University, to explore antiviral activity of different medications.

The role of the DTRA is to find solutions to protect members of the U.S. military from weapons of mass destruction, including bioterrorism threats.

The research will begin with two compounds that are the active ingredients in the FDA-approved oral cancer medicines Gleevec and Tasigna can prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections in a mouse model. Monkeypox is an orthopox virus that has similar characteristics to smallpox (a vaccinia virus) and it can, according to the World Health Organization, often be fatal. According to UAB, monkeypox virus is a potential infectious agent that could be used as biological weapon.

Monkeypox side effects

Monkeypox side effects

Buller is studying Gleevec and Tasigna because they target the same enzyme that the vaccinia virus and Ebola virus require in their natural life cycle. These medications are absorbed when given by mouth, and they are highly ‘bioavailable’: in that 98% of an oral dose reaches the bloodstream.

If the drugs are successful against certain viruses then the process for using them will be less in cumbered by regulation given that the medicines are already approved for treating patients.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.