Clinical trial to repurpose HIV drugs to treat brain tumours

MRI of the brain showing glioblastoma

Drugs developed to treat HIV and AIDS are being trialled for the first time in patients with multiple brain tumours.

Scientists at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth are conducting a clinical trial to see whether using anti-retroviral medications, ritonavir and lopinavir, could help people with Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2).

The rare inherited genetic condition causes tumours such as schwannoma (which include acoustic neuroma), ependymoma and meningioma which develop on the membrane surrounding the brain.

The RETREAT clinical trial, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann and funded by the Children’s Tumour Foundation, will expand on research which showed the repurposed drugs reduced tumour growth and survival in the tumours.

In a previous study, researchers investigated the role that specific sections of our DNA, named ‘endogenous retrovirus HERV-K’, play in tumour development.

Professor Hanemann said: “In this study, the team showed that high levels of HERV-K proteins were present in meningioma and schwannoma cells obtained from patients. The team was also able to identify molecular events that may enable HERV-K proteins to stimulate the growth of these tumours. Furthermore, several drugs were identified that target these proteins, reducing the growth of schwannoma and grade I meningioma cells in the laboratory. Significantly, these drugs – the retroviral protease inhibitors ritonavir, atazanavir, and lopinavir – have already been approved by the for use in the treatment of HIV/AIDS in the USA and are also available in the UK.”

During the upcoming year-long trial, patients will undergo a tumour biopsy and blood test before having 30 days of treatment with the two medications. They will then have another biopsy and blood test to determine if the drug combination has managed to enter tumour cells and has had its intended effect.

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

Related Articles

Join FREE today and become a member
of Drug Discovery World

Membership includes:

  • Full access to the website including free and gated premium content in news, articles, business, regulatory, cancer research, intelligence and more.
  • Unlimited App access: current and archived digital issues of DDW magazine with search functionality, special in App only content and links to the latest industry news and information.
  • Weekly e-newsletter, a round-up of the most interesting and pertinent industry news and developments.
  • Whitepapers, eBooks and information from trusted third parties.
Join For Free