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Cancer drugs could treat many other conditions, says research

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Anti-angiogenic drugs that are being increasingly used to treat cancer could have many other uses including helping to treat a wide range of infectious diseases, according to new research.

The drugs are commonly used to help to prevent cancers from stimulating the growth of the blood vessels they need to survive and grow, but they could also help in the treatment of other diseases including visceral leishmaniasis which kills 70,000 people globally every year.

The study by the Centre for Immunology and Infection, at the University of York, suggests that anti-angiogenic drugs can improve the structure of tissues where immune responses are generated and which are often destroyed by chronic infection or inflammation.

The resulting improvement in the immune response can increase the effectiveness of conventional treatments for leishmaniasis, allowing doctors to use lower doses of existing drugs that otherwise have harmful side effects, the study, published online by The Journal of Clinical Investigation, said.

Professor Paul Kaye, director of the Centre for Immunology and Infection, said: “Our research also identifies ways that anti-angiogenic drugs might be used more effectively in the treatment of cancers.”

The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

The findings have led to further research, supported by Yorkshire Cancer Research, into the potential use of anti-angiogenic drugs as a “preconditioning agent” in the treatment of melanoma.

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