Belfast Scientist’s Leukaemia Research Awarded International Prize

Dr Kyle Matchett 2

Threadworm Drug Hope for Blood Cancer Treatment

A Belfast research scientist, whose work is funded by charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, has made a ground-breaking discovery in the search for new treatments for leukaemia.

Dr Kyle Matchett’s work has revealed that a medication which is commonly used to treat parasitic worm infections (such as childhood threadworms) could be re-purposed and used in the successful treatment of both Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) and Mixed Lineage Leukaemia (MLL).

Research into re-purposing of drugs has been successful in other spheres of medicine, including the use of a Parkinson’s disease drug, Bromocriptine, in diabetes; and the use of a cancer drug, Methotrexate, in the treatment of psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Matchett, a post-doctoral scientist working with Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, explained, “Using drugs which are already available has many advantages; they are easily accessible, cheaper and already approved by the government.   It can take up to 20 years to create, test and market a new drug to treat patients; with the average cost thought to be around $2.5 billion USD.”

“Mebendazole is a medication used to treat parasitic worm infections, and it is well tolerated by humans.   There are current studies to suggest that it may be a promising drug in the treatment of cancer of the adrenal gland, lung cancer and brain tumours.   However, there are currently no studies into the effects of Mebendazole on blood cancers, so this find is quite exciting.”

The Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI-funded testing of 760 drugs has revealed that a handful of drugs approved for other purposes may have a positive effect on leukaemia cells.  With a careful balance required between eliminating the cancer cells and protecting the normal healthy blood cells, Dr Matchett’s findings revealed that the strongest potential lies in Mebendazole.

Dr Matchett’s work has just been awarded a prize at the International Society of Haematology annual conference attended by over 2500 of the world’s leading blood cancer consultants, nurses and scientists.

Professor Ken Mills, Chair of Experimental Haematology and clinical lead at Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI explained, “A prize at this international conference is the highest accolade available to a research scientist like Kyle.  The international recognition and support for his work from world class leaders in the haematology field is a clear indication that this project has the potential to radically improve survival prospects for leukaemia patients.”

To continue with its life saving research, Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI needs to fundraise at least £500,000 every year. Visit www.leukaemiaandlymphomani.org  for more information.

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