Can Anti-psychotic Drugs Treat Cancer?

According to an article in Medical News Today, researchers in Australia have found that antipsychotic drugs seem to have the ability to kill cancer cells, especially those found in the lung, brain and breast.

It seems that antipsychotic drugs in general, and especially Orap, or pimozide, an especially objectionable first generation drug — according to those who have taken it — and Zyprexa are particularly good at preventing such cancers, or so it seemed to those studying those schizophrenic persons who have taken them over the years.

This is strange, given that it is well known that those with schizophrenia and other major mental illnesses tend to die a good 25 years before their peers, though who knows how such results may have been skewed by such deadly illnesses as depression and anorexia. This is not to say that individuals with schizophrenia do not die early, by suicide as much as for purely medical reasons, but do we know that they do or do not die of cancer, when they die earlier than the so-called mentally healthy? And if not of cancer, what do they in fact die so early because of?

An interesting question, because if it is of the other usual culprits like heart disease and diabetes, then such drugs as Zyprexa are a double edged sword, protecting one from cancer even as it may induce the same metabolic syndrome of obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc that will kill them instead. Much good that does! For cancer patients, however, who do not have schizophrenia or Bipolar I, and who already suffer from cachexia and lack of appetite, the appetite stimulation of Zyprexa would be a good thing, even as it treats the cancer itself.

Who knows? It would be wonderful — it seems to me — for there to be other uses, perhaps just as important uses for Zyprexa than as an antipsychotic. Then it would not be under the threat — due to Lilly’s admittedly reckless indifference at best, and ruthless manipulating at worst– of being taken off the market which it seems often to be, what with so many lawsuits afflicting the company with regard to it. And what a boon to us who have suffered from the worst of the side effects. If we can manage somehow to solve the weight gain effects of our drugs, perhaps we will eventually outlive those who do not or cannot take them due to the side effects that THEY experience, which we ourselves may not.

Anyhow here is the article itself, should you wish to read it.

Fighting Cancer With Anti-Psychotic Drugs

13 Aug 2009   

The observation that people taking medication for schizophrenia have lower cancer rates than other people has prompted new research revealing that anti-psychotic drugs could help treat some major cancers.

A preliminary finding in the current online issue of the International Journal of Cancer reports that the anti-psychotic drug, pimozide, kills lung, breast and brain cancer cells in in-vitro laboratory experiments.

Several epidemiological studies have noted the low rate of cancer among schizophrenic patients. These studies found, for example, that these patients have lower rates of lung cancer than other people, even though they are more likely to smoke.

Genetic factors and the possibility of reduced cancer detection in patients have been considered and over the past decade anti-psychotic drugs have been suggested as possible mediators of this effect.

In the new study, pimozide was the most lethal of six anti-psychotic drugs tested by a team from UNSW and the University of Queensland. Rapidly-dividing cancer cells require cholesterol and lipids to grow and the researchers suspect that pimozide kills cancer cells by blocking the synthesis or movement of cholesterol and lipid in cancer cells.

Analysis of gene expression in test cancer cells showed that genes involved in the synthesis and uptake of cholesterol and lipids were boosted when pimozide was introduced.

To test the idea that pimozide acts by disrupting cholesterol homeostasis, the researchers combined pimozide with mevastatin, a drug that inhibits cholesterol production in cells. The two drugs were more lethal in combination against cancer cells than when either drug was used alone.

“The combination of pimozide and mevastatin increased cancer cell death,” says UNSW researcher Dr Louise Lutze-Mann, a co-author of the study. “We needed a lower dose of each drug to kill the same amount of cells.”

Although side-effects are associated with the use of high doses of these drugs – such as tremors, muscle spasms and slurred speech – these effects are considered to be tolerable in patients where other treatments have failed and the drugs will only be used short-term. These side-effects would be reduced if the drugs were used in combination with a lipid-lowering drug, such as mevastatin.

The researchers have also investigated the effects of olazapine , a “second-generation” antipsychotic drug, and found that it also kills cancer cells but has a better side-effect profile. When administered to patients, it accumulates in the lung, which suggests that it may prove to be most useful in treating lung cancer.

The researchers are now testing these drugs on tumour cells from brain cancers since these tumours are extremely difficult to treat and are frequently associated with poor patient prognosis. Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, for example, survive less than one year.

The results are very promising as these drugs are greater than 50-fold more effective at killing glioblastoma cells than the chemotherapeutic drug currently in use. The researchers are also investigating the effects of these drugs on cells derived from drug-resistant childhood cancers where current chemotherapy has failed.

Another hopeful prospect is an investigation of another group of drugs, called SERMs, which are similar in structure to the antipsychotic drugs but have far fewer side-effects associated with them.

Dr. Louise Lutze-Mann
University of New South Wales

Article URL:

Main News Category: Schizophrenia

Also Appears In:  Breast Cancer,  Cancer / Oncology,  Lung Cancer,

One thought on “Can Anti-psychotic Drugs Treat Cancer?”

  1. As to the possible anti-cancer effect of statins+Orap:
    I think your sceptical considerations may be somewhat strange as to effect on GBM – obesity never is a real problem if the alternative is living for a few months on the treatments being used so far.


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