Belfast researchers published in repurposing a Parkinsons treatment for adult leukaemia

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

A team of blood cancer researchers in Belfast have reported the results of a study, in the scientific journal “Oncotarget”, which identified and demonstrated that Bromocriptine, a widely-prescribed drug, more recently used in managing Parkinson’s symptoms, could be repurposed as a potential therapy for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).   

The study was undertaken by the Blood Cancer Research Group at the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology (CCRCB) at Queen’s University Belfast.  Dr Fabio Liberante initially used computer-based analysis of gene expression profiles from healthy individuals and patients with MDS and AML to create a signature of these diseases. This signature was then compared to a database of therapies that are currently, or have been recently, used for the treatment of other diseases. As a result, the analysis identified Bromocriptine, which as a therapeutic agent has been shown to be non-toxic and has been widely-prescribed for decades with minimal side-effects.  Furthermore, Dr Liberante and his colleagues showed that Bromocriptine could potentially be repurposed from treating patients with Parkinson or hyperprolactinemia to treating patients with MDS that may be progressing to AML.

Professor Ken Mills, Lead of the Blood Cancer research group in the CCRCB at QUB, said that “the use of drugs that are repurposed or repositioned from treatment of other diseases should be further exploited for cancer therapy in general, and acute myeloid leukaemia specifically, as there is an unmet need for novel therapies.

Dr Shu-Dong Zhang, Queen’s University Belfast, who developed the bioinformatics algorithm which was used to identify Bromocriptine as a potential therapy said that “the study showed how computer analysis and laboratory based studies can be combined to suggest that this drug could be repurposed for leukaemia”.

Professor Curly Morris, chair of the Leukaemia and Lymphoma NI (LLNI) Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee, said “that it is encouraging that research we have co-funded has identified novel therapies for acute leukaemia which has an overall poor outcome.  These studies will dovetail across all aspects of the research that LLNI funds from the bedside to the bench and back to the bedside”. 

The study was funded by grants from the Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, UK) and The McClay Trust