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Possible Future Uses of Salinomycin
Salinomycin seems to have the most promise in the fight against colon and breast cancer. It may possibly help destroy other cancers, including those in the head and neck.
Studies done on mice have shown that salinomycin may directly target cancer stem cells. There is increasing evidence that cancer stem cells play a critical role in the recurrence of cancer. The stem cells are a subpopulation within the tumor cells that have the ability to regrow. Cancer deaths are still relatively high because current treatments fail to destroy the cancer stem cells. When the stem cells survive, the cancer is more likely to recurr, even if the tumor has been shrunk by conventional cancer treatments. Relapse is more likely when stem cells are allowed to survive.
Oncologists currently have many therapies to attack cancer; yet often the tumor regrows even after treatment. Research has shown that it is difficult to isolate and destroy the cells inside of tumors that contribute to regrowth. These cancer stem cells have proven difficult to grow outside of the body so they can be studied more closely. A study group eventually found a way to manipulate breast cancer cells and turn them into cancer stem cells so different chemical compounds could be tested on them.
Approximately 16,000 varieties of chemical compounds were then used on these cells. After testing, the researchers narrowed the compounds down to 32. Finally, it was narrowed down to one compound: salinomycin. Salinomycin was better at destroying the breast cancer stem cells than the most often used chemotherapy agents.
Salinomycin was even found to be effective against genes associated with extremely aggressive tumors. Salinomycin was recently found to be effective in treating various lung cancers, ovarian cancer cells, and cancers of the prostate.
Prostate cancers often will initially respond to standard therapies. However, when relapse does occur, the new cancer cells are often then resistant to the usual treatment. Studies have shown that salinomycin is able to inhibit prostate cancer cells without harming the non malignant prostate cells.
Not only does salinomycin combat the cancer stem cells but recent studies have shown that salinomycin was capable of making general cancer cells more susceptible to other cancer fighting drugs such as Paclitaxel. Because salinomycin shows potential for destroying the very roots of cancer growth, namely the stem cells, it may be used to treat a variety of advanced cancers. What is interesting about this is that the salinomycin causes different reactions when fighting cancer stem cells.
Researchers have been trying to discover exactly how salinomycin targets and kills cancer stem cells. Some studies seem to indicate that the drug acts as an inhibitor of what is biologically known as ABC transporters. ABC transporters are necessary for the viability or survival of a cell. In other words, salinomycin works in this way to help destroy the cancer cells. The drug not only inhibits these cancer stem cells but helps overcome drug resistance that happens in some patients. Salinomycin may also inhibit the signals and pathways in cells that are necessary for stem cell development.
Salinomycin may also be used to treat African Trypanosomiasis which is a parasitic disease commonly referred to as sleeping sickness. There are a few treatment options for this disease, but they are considered outdated. There is also the problem of resistance and toxicity. Salinomycin may be effective in treating Trypanosomiasis because it can cause an influx of sodium, thus causing the cells to swell. Salinomycin creates potassium imbalance in cells. When treating this disease the salinomycin can be given as an oral medication. Current treatments are usually injected.
As stated earlier, the costs of producing salinomycin for its current use is expensive. This could prohibit future studies and use in humans. At the current time, however, producing salinomycin sodium is much cheaper than regular salinomycin. Perhaps more studies regarding the effectiveness of salinomycin sodium on cancer cells and cancer stem cells is needed. Some research has suggested there is little difference between salinomycin sodium and salinomycin in fighting cancer stem cells.
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