WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- A cancer drug already approved for use in humans might also be effective in the treatment of diabetes, U.S. researchers said Sunday.
The research, done in mice, identified a molecular pathway involved in the development of diabetes, and found that the drug aflibercept, marketed as Eylea or Zaltrap, can regulate the pathway.
Aflibercept is approved to treat metastatic colorectal cancer and a form of macular degeneration. It inhibits the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway, thus blocking the growth of the blood vessels into tumors and starving them of oxygen.
Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine reported in the journal Nature Medicine in two articles that they have identified a series of protein interactions that link VEGF inhibitors and blood glucose levels, including one called PhD3 that could be a particularly attractive target.
"We were surprised to find that this drug currently used in patients for cancer treatment had beneficial effects on diabetes in laboratory mice and could, potentially, in humans," said Professor Calvin Kuo, senior author of one of the two papers.
The studies hinted that VEGF inhibitors, such as aflibercept, could function in a similar way in humans, but human studies have not been formally conducted.
"Anecdotally, there have been reports that diabetic patients who have been prescribed VEGF inhibitors to treat their cancer are better able to control their diabetes," Kuo said.
"Much work remains to translate these mouse studies to human patients, but it will be interesting to explore VEGF inhibitors or drugs ... for diabetes treatment, possibly in combination with pre- existing therapies to minimize toxicities," he added.