Sleeping sickness drug may provide long-term protection against skin cancer

October 23, 2011

BOSTON -- An antiparasitic agent used to treat African sleeping sickness might someday be used to prevent nonmelanoma skin cancers. Researchers found that DFMO, or α-difluoromethylornithine, still appeared to protect against nonmelanoma skin cancers years after people stopped taking the drug, according to a poster presented at the 10th AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held Oct. 22-25, 2011.

In this follow-up study, researchers evaluated prolonged evidence of a protective effect of DFMO among 209 people who had participated in an earlier study. The researchers also wanted to ensure there were no obvious deleterious effects associated with the drug, according to Howard H. Bailey, M.D., professor of medicine, and study presenter Sarah Lamont, a medical student, both from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The original study was a phase III, randomized, double-blind, prospective study of 291 men and women with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer. They were assigned to either DFMO or a placebo for four to five years. At the end of the study period, researchers found a reduced skin cancer incidence among those assigned to DFMO.

"We showed a significant protective effect against basal cell carcinoma, but not a significant amount of protection against squamous cell carcinoma of the skin," Bailey said.

The main side effect was a slight ototoxicity that was found on testing, but this was not associated with a noticeable reduction in hearing by the subjects.

In the current retrospective study, researchers reviewed the electronic medical records of 209 of the original participants to establish cancer rates and to see if any other illnesses they might have developed could be attributed to DFMO.

"We found there is still evidence that the men and women assigned to DFMO for five years continued to have a lower incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancers compared with people assigned to placebo," Bailey said. "What we saw was that the presumed benefit that people got in taking DFMO appeared to persist for years after stopping it."

Study limitations include that participants may have been followed differently or changed their behaviors to limit sun exposure because of being in the original study, Bailey said.

"Our data suggest that the protective event that we saw in our prospective study appears to continue and there was no evidence of any rebound effect," he said. "We did not find any evidence that the people who received DFMO were harmed [other than the original ototoxicity]."

However, Bailey cautioned, more studies are needed before DFMO can be recommended as a prophylaxis against nonmelanoma skin cancers.

He added that such prophylaxis measures are needed because public health efforts to teach people about limiting sun exposure have not resulted in fewer cases of skin cancer, with more than 2 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer diagnosed each year. "The incidence continues to rise despite public health efforts to get people to lessen their sun exposure," Bailey said.
-end-
The study was sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Follow the AACR on Twitter: @aacr #aacr
Follow the AACR on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aacr.org

The mission of the American Association for Cancer Research is to prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1907, the AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. The membership includes 33,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the United States and more than 90 other countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise from the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer through high-quality scientific and educational programs. It funds innovative, meritorious research grants, research fellowships and career development awards to young investigators, and it also funds cutting-edge research projects conducted by senior researchers. The AACR has numerous fruitful collaborations with organizations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad, and functions as the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer, a charitable initiative that supports groundbreaking research aimed at getting new cancer treatments to patients in an accelerated time frame. The AACR Annual Meeting attracts more than 17,000 participants who share the latest discoveries and developments in the field. Special Conferences throughout the year present novel data across a wide variety of topics in cancer research, treatment and patient care, and Educational Workshops are held for the training of young cancer investigators. The AACR publishes seven major peer-reviewed journals: Cancer Discovery; Cancer Research; Clinical Cancer Research; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; Molecular Cancer Therapeutics; Molecular Cancer Research; and Cancer Prevention Research. In 2010, AACR journals received 20 percent of the total number of citations given to oncology journals. The AACR also publishes Cancer Today, a magazine for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers, which provides practical knowledge and new hope for cancer survivors. A major goal of the AACR is to educate the general public and policymakers about the value of cancer research in improving public health, the vital importance of increases in sustained funding for cancer research and biomedical science, and the need for national policies that foster innovation and the acceleration of progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer.

American Association for Cancer Research

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.