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A drug with a long list of heavy side effects, commonly used to treat sufferers of schizophrenia, also possesses some startlingly potent anti-cancer properties, according to research published Thursday in the medical journal Cell
The drug, thioridazine is usually dispensed as a last resort for schizophrenics whose symptoms did not respond to other treatments. Scientists said that after analyzing thousands of different drugs for possible anti-cancer effects, they discovered that thioridazine can be used to selectively target and eradicate cancerous stem cells present in leukemia, along with breast, blood, brain, prostate, ovarian, lung and gastrointestinal cancers, all without the worst side effects of today’s most frequently used cancer therapies.
“The unusual aspect of our finding is the way this human-ready drug actually kills cancer stem cells – by changing them into cells that are non-cancerous,” Mick Bhatia, the study’s principal researcher and scientific director of McMaster’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute in Canada, said in a media advisory.