Biology

Cancer researchers stumble onto drugs' fat-blasting powers

Cancer researchers stumble ont...
The real test will be if the mouse study can be reproduced in humans
The real test will be if the mouse study can be reproduced in humans
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The real test will be if the mouse study can be reproduced in humans
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The real test will be if the mouse study can be reproduced in humans

While the scientific inquiry process is generally linear and highly regimented, every once in awhile, happenstance works its way in. That's just what happened when researchers at the Mayo Clinic were studying the influence obesity has over cancer treatments and found, instead, that two popular cancer-fighting drugs melted fat off the bodies of morbidly obese mice.

When the researchers gave the rotund rodents the chemotherapy drugs methotrexate and cyclophosphamidem they witnessed dramatic weight loss in the mice – even though they kept their whiskers deep in the grub.

"We were surprised to observe that when morbidly obese mice were treated with certain cancer-fighting drugs, the drugs not only targeted their cancers, but also tended to spontaneously resolve their obesity – even with undiminished gorging on a high-fat diet," said Mayo Clinic cancer immunotherapist Peter Cohen who co-led the study.

Perhaps most impressively, the drugs seemed to do all the hard work on their own, without affecting the appetites or caloric intake of the mice at all, or causing any toxic effects. The researchers believe that the drugs worked by depleting fat cell precursors in the mice, which means that the rodents simply couldn't store fat.

"The ease with which this weight loss was achieved in mice – even with continued caloric binging – is in stark contrast to the Herculean difficulties morbidly obese patients experience trying to preserve weight loss through dietary restraint," said Mayo Clinic immunologist Sandra Gendler, who also participated in the study.

At this point there's no telling if the fat loss in mice will translate to human candidates, but being that the drugs are already approved for human use – even being employed to fight other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis – further research shouldn't be too difficult to conduct.

The findings of the team, which also includes the efforts of Mayo Clinic postdoctoral fellow Cheryl Myers, were just published in the journal Oncotarget.

Source: Mayo Clinic

8 comments
Racqia Dvorak
I mean, how serious of obesity are we talking about, here? Seriously, look at these side effects: "Many people using this medication have serious side effects. However, your doctor has prescribed this drug because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Careful monitoring by your doctor may decrease your risk. Tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: signs of kidney or bladder problems (such as change in the amount of urine, pink/bloody urine), mouth sores, unusual tiredness or weakness, joint pain, easy bruising/bleeding, stopping of menstrual periods, existing wounds that are slow healing. Tell your doctor right away if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: black/bloody stools, severe stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes or skin, dark urine, mental/mood changes, muscle weakness/spasm, swelling of the ankles/feet, sudden or unusual weight gain. This medication may rarely cause very serious effects on the heart, especially when used in high doses, or in combination with radiation treatment or certain other chemotherapy drugs (e.g., doxorubicin). Seek immediate medical attention if you develop: chest pain, jaw/left arm pain, trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat. This medication can lower the body's ability to fight an infection. Notify your doctor promptly if you develop any signs of an infection such as fever, chills or persistent sore throat. Cyclophosphamide may lessen the chance of having children in both men and women. Sterility is usually temporary with this medication, but can be permanent in some cases. Consult your doctor for more details. Although cyclophosphamide is used to treat cancer, in some patients it may increase the risk of developing another form of cancer, sometimes months to years after treatment. " "Methotrexate can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches). Methotrexate can cause serious or life-threatening side effects on your liver, lungs, or kidneys. Tell your doctor if you have upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dry cough, shortness of breath, blood in your urine, or little or no urinating. If you are a man, use a condom to keep from causing a pregnancy while you are using methotrexate. Continue using condoms for at least 90 days after your treatment ends. If you are a woman, use an effective form of birth control while you are taking methotrexate, and for at least one cycle of ovulation after your treatment ends."
Derek Howe
Thanks a lot Racqia! I was pumped up about a new weight loss magic pill, then you had to stomp all over my dreams! lol But seriously, I actually already take the methotrexate for my arthritis (at 33, grrr), and I haven't lost any weight...it must be the combo of the drugs that does the magic. BTW, they give you another pill (folic acid) to fight the side effects of the first one. ahhh, the crazy/stupid world we live in.
VincentWolf
I have been taking Methotrexate for almost 2 years and have witnessed no such fat reduction. If anything, it's making me a lot fatter. So much for this theory of working on humans.
JamesDemello
Great! You can eat like a pig but not look like one.
wle
this is just standard boiler-plate side effects: doesn't every drug on a tv commercial have these? wle --- "Many people using this medication have serious side effects. However, your doctor has prescribed this drug because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Careful monitoring by your doctor may decrease your risk. Tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: signs of kidney or bladder problems (such as change in the amount of urine, pink/bloody urine), mouth sores, unusual tiredness or weakness, joint pain, easy bruising/bleeding, stopping of menstrual periods, existing wounds that are slow healing. Tell your doctor right away if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: black/bloody stools, severe stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing eyes or skin, dark urine, mental/mood changes, muscle weakness/spasm, swelling of the ankles/feet, sudden or unusual weight gain. This medication may rarely cause very serious effects on the heart, especially when used in high doses, or in combination with radiation treatment or certain other chemotherapy drugs (e.g., doxorubicin). Seek immediate medical attention if you develop: chest pain, jaw/left arm pain, trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat. This medication can lower the body's ability to fight an infection. Notify your doctor promptly if you develop any signs of an infection such as fever, chills or persistent sore throat. Cyclophosphamide may lessen the chance of having children in both men and women. Sterility is usually temporary with this medication, but can be permanent in some cases. Consult your doctor for more details. Although cyclophosphamide is used to treat cancer, in some patients it may increase the risk of developing another form of cancer, sometimes months to years after treatment. " "Methotrexate can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches). Methotrexate can cause serious or life-threatening side effects on your liver, lungs, or kidneys. Tell your doctor if you have upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), dry cough, shortness of breath, blood in your urine, or little or no urinating. If you are a man, use a condom to keep from causing a pregnancy while you are using methotrexate. Continue using condoms for at least 90 days after your treatment ends. If you are a woman, use an effective form of birth control while you are taking methotrexate, and for at least one cycle of ovulation after your treatment ends." --
Pequod42
This kind of story is hard enough to believe without silly clichés like "melted fat off". That kind of language really belongs in your average snake-oil ad, the kind that tells you how to get rid of "belly fat," and not in something sanctioned by the Mayo Clinic.
Purple-Stater
Sounds a lot like the mice entered a simple state of ketosis. Body fat is typically built from carbohydrates, not fat intake.
Grunchy
I guess you can get fat from eating lots of calories, irrespective of whether the calories derive from carbohydrate or protein, or fat, or sugary candy, or greasy chips. Also I think pretty much every drug has side effects. Vitamin C has side effects. Herbal tea has side effects. I guess one side effect of this particular combination is somehow diminished weight loss. A great number of people are suffering from being overweight, so this is major news. Obesity is a serious health risk and practically everybody who is fat hates it. Comments such as "eat like a pig" well, how helpful is that. That's just somebody being judgmental and ignorant. Are you aware that vulnerable people develop full-blown life threatening psychological problems from such careless remarks? Thanks for the ignorance guys.