London: A drug given to arthritis sufferers could be used to treat patients with blood cancer, say researchers from University of Sheffield in Britain.
The discovery may open up cost effective treatment options for people suffering from the blood cancer myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) across the world as the anti-inflammatory medicine is one thousandth of the cost of a promising drug which has been shown to work in the same way.
"We have the potential to revolutionise the treatment of this group of chronic diseases - a breakthrough that may represent a new treatment option able to bring relief to both patients and health funders," said one of the researchers Martin Zeidler.
Most often diagnosed in people in their 50s and 60s, MPN cause an overproduction of blood cells creating a significant impact on quality-of-life, with symptoms such as night sweats, itching and tiredness.
Currently, MPN treatment is limited to aspirin, removal of excess blood and mild chemotherapy.
Recently, the drug Ruxolitinib was shown to provide relief, but at a cost of over 40,000 pounds per year per patient, it has not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in Britain.
The study has discovered that Methotrexate (MTX) can work in the same way. It is commonly used at low doses to treat inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and psoriasis and has few side effects.
"Given that a year's course of low-dose MTX costs around 30 pounds, the potential to repurpose MTX could provide thousands of patients with a much needed treatment option and also generate substantial savings for health care systems," Zeidler said.
In this study, the scientists tested the effectiveness of the drug in treating MPN in fruit fly and human cells.
The researchers are now looking to undertake clinical trials to examine the possibility of repurposing low-dose MTX for the treatment of MPNs.
The results of the study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.