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Antidepressant drug found to slow tumor growth in mice

2012/06/07 14:31:36

Taipei, June 7 (CNA) Taiwanese researchers have found that the antidepressant Mirtazapine can significantly slow tumor growth and extend the lives of mice with colorectal cancer.

The study found that mice with colorectal cancer that were given Mirtazapine lived an additional 67 days on average, while those that were not given the drug lived an average of 43 days, Fang Chun-kai, director of the Department of Psychiatry and Suicide Prevention Center at the Mackay Memorial Hospital, said Thursday.

The time that it took for the tumor to grow to 400 cubic millimeters was also almost doubled to 41 days for mice given the drug, up from 22 days for untreated mice, said Fang, who led the research.

Although it would be difficult to carry out human trials and the study has shown that Mirtazapine does not cure cancer in mice, "at least it can help cancer patients currently taking this drug to feel more at ease," said the doctor at a press conference.

Fang said he was motivated to carry out the study after discovering that many cancer patients who have been referred to him for depression treatment have shown not only progress in their mental health but a delay in their cancer recurrence.

John J.J. Hwang, a biomedical imaging and radiological sciences professor from National Yang-Ming University who conducted the research with Fang, said the drug could achieve the same results on mice with other types of cancer.

"The drug improves the immune system and raises the serotonin levels in mice and lowers the tumor necrosis factor that causes cell death in their tumors," said Hwang, adding that these are all relevant to other types of cancer.

"The earlier the drug is given to the mice, the better its effects on improving their immune systems," said Fang.

Citing a study conducted by his hospital last year, Fang said that around 25 percent of cancer patients develop depression, adding that he hopes more studies can bring light to the emotions of cancer patients and cancer prognosis.

The results of the findings will be published in the U.S. scientific journal Public Library of Science ONE journal this month, said Fang.

(By Christie Chen)