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Arsenic shows promise as treatment for deadly brain tumors

Thursday, January 13, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: arsenic, tumors, health news

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(NaturalNews) Arsenic and its related compounds are mostly thought of as killers -- and these natural substances can be just that. Notoriously poisonous to myriad forms of life, arsenic is often used in pesticides. And water supplies in many parts of the world that are contaminated by the natural occurrence of arsenic compounds can cause serious health problems. But despite it's reputation as a dangerous chemical, arsenic has been used in tiny amounts in medicine for over 2,000 years.

Sound crazy? Not any more. Mainstream science has learned that traditional healers were on to something when they treated certain cancers and other difficult-to-treat problems with remedies containing arsenic. It turns out that while a high level of arsenic is known to be carcinogenic, low doses can be an anti-cancer therapy in some cases. For example, a Dutch population study found low levels of arsenic concentrations in drinking water not only didn't increase cancer incidence in people who drank it, but resulted in a decrease in skin cancers.

What's more, starting in the 17th century, arsenic was the primary therapy for treating a type of leukemia known as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Today the arsenic compound arsenic trioxide (ATO) is FDA approved for the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia. And now there's more remarkably good news about normally feared arsenic.

A team of researchers, led by Aykut Uren of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., has found evidence that arsenic might be a therapy for hard-or-impossible-to-treat types of brain tumors as well as connective tissue tumors. Specifically, years of research have revealed a common pathway (the hedgehog/GLI1 signaling pathway) that is activated in tumors called medulloblastomas and connective tissue tumors known as Ewing sarcoma (ES). This activation causes cancer tumors to grow and spread.

In research just published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the Georgetown scientists described how they used the arsenic trioxide compound to shut down that pathway in mice models of ES and medulloblastoma. The result? The growth of cancer cells was dramatically suppressed.

According to a media statement, Dr. Uren explained that this pathway is also commonly activated in other cancers, including colon, pancreatic, and basal cell skin cancer. That means the arsenic compound can and should be tested immediately on these other malignancies.

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