According to results of a study, methadone, a drug used to treat people addicted to heroin and other opioid drugs, holds promise as a new treatment for leukemia, especially treatment-resistant leukemia.
Researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany report in a paper published in the journal Cancer Research, laboratory result tests show that methadone kills leukemia cells without harming healthy blood cells. Methadone was even effective in killing leukemia cells resistant to killing by radiation and chemotherapy.
According to Dr. Claudia Friesen, the study chief of the research, leukemia cells express opioid receptors, to which methadone binds. The researchers found that methadone kills leukemia cells efficiently. In addition, these results provide the foundation for new strategies using methadone as an additional anticancer drug in leukemia therapy, especially when conventional therapies are less effective.
Friesen predicts that methadone will have similar effects in other cancers that express opioid receptors. In her lab, the researchers have found that methadone also can kill solid tumors. Moreover, Friesen and her team are studying methadone alone and in combination with other chemotherapy drugs in animal models of cancer.
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