Magazine article Science News

Drug Resistance: Malaria-Cancer Similarity?

Magazine article Science News

Drug Resistance: Malaria-Cancer Similarity?

Article excerpt

Drug resistance: Malaria-cancer similarity?

Researchers at the Walter Reed ArmyInstitute of Research in Washington, D.C., report experimental evidence that malaria-causing parasites may be using the same defense against antimalaria drugs as cancer cells do against certain anticancer drugs.

If both cancer cells and malaria parasitesuse the same protective device, researchers might be able to apply what they know about the cancer system to the problem of malaria drug resistance, according to the investigators.

Resistance to antimalaria drugs is agrowing problem. Nearly all malaria infections in Indochina are now caused by parasites resistant to the most effective and least dangerous antimalaria agent, chloroquine. Cases that fail to respond to chloroquine have also been reported in South America and Africa.

After a meeting on cancer drug resistancerecently at the National Institutes of Health, Samuel K. Martin of Walter Reed proposed that Plasmodium falciparum, which causes most of the 2 million to 3 million malaria deaths a year, sometimes uses a mechanism similar to that of tumor cells. If so, he theorizes, it could be thwarted in the same way resistance in cultured cancer cells can be reversed.

In the Feb. 20 SCIENCE, Martin, Ayo M.J. Oduola and Wilbur Milhous report they exposed drug-resistant P. falciparum to verapamil, one of several drugs that can prevent cancer cells from ridding themselves of chemotherapy. The verapamil made the malaria parasites sensitive to chloroquine. …

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