What does the parasitic infection, malaria, and breast cancer have in common? It looks increasingly likely that these two potentially fatal conditions can be prevented when treated with the same drug.
Researchers at George Mason University, near Washington DC, are conducting a clinical trial to see if a widely-prescribed drug used to prevent and treat malaria, called chloroquine (pronounced klor' oh kwin), will do the same for ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, the most common type of pre-invasive breast cancer.
The goal is to find a short-term oral treatment that prevents breast cancer by killing the precursor cells that initiate breast cancer development, said Lance Liotta, co-director of Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM). “And it’s looking hopeful.”
The clinical trial, dubbed the Preventing Invasive Neoplasia with Chloroquine (PINC), is one of three ongoing breast cancer research projects at CAPMM that’s showing promise.
Mason University researchers say it’s still too early to know if the malaria treatment will pan out as a preventative fix for breast cancer, but CAPMM Assistant Research Professor Virginia Espina says there could come a day when chloroquine is taken by women worldwide to do just that.
DCIS shows up as white spots in the MRI of a breast. Those white spots are calcification that may mark the milk ducts where DCIS cells are growing, said Espina.
“Not all DCIS becomes cancer, but all breast cancer goes through the DCIS stage” she said.
Espina said that the PINC clinical trial is open to women diagnosed with DCIS after a biopsy, adding that the study doesn’t interfere with standard medical treatment.
Mason University researchers are working with Kirsten Edmiston, a breast surgeon at Inova Fairfax Hospital in northern Virginia who recruits the patients and clinically directs the trial .