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Cancer drug could extend lifespan

A team of researchers led by the University of Auckland in New Zealand has recently found that long-term treatment of middle-aged (one year old) healthy mice with a drug currently used to combat cancer – called Alpelisib – can increase their lifespan by an average of ten percent to around three years.

The experts performed a controlled experiment in which a group of mice were fed a control diet, while another group were given the same diet with the addition of Alpelisib. The results revealed that not only did the mice treated with the drug lived longer, but also showed some signs of being healthier in old age, such as better coordination and strength. 

According to the scientists, this drug acts by targeting an enzyme called PI 3-kinase. “We have been working on developing drugs to target PI 3-kinase for more than 20 years as evidence indicated they would be useful to treat cancers as many cancers have an excess activation of this pathway,” said study co-author Peter Shepherd, a professor of Molecular Medicine and Pathology at Auckland. “Therefore, it’s great to see that these drugs might have uses in other areas and reveal novel mechanisms contributing to age-related diseases.”

“Aging is not only about lifespan but also about quality of life,” added senior author Chris Hedges, a research fellow in Metabolism and Intercellular Signaling at the same university. “Therefore, we were pleased to see this drug treatment not only increased longevity of the mice but they also showed many signs of healthier ageing. We are working now to understand how this happens.” 

However, the researchers are currently cautious about starting to apply this treatment to humans, since the mice that were fed the drug also exhibited some negative markers of aging, such as lower bone mass. 

“We are not suggesting that anyone should go out and take this drug long-term to extend lifespan, as there are some side effects,” said study senior author Troy Merry, an expert in Metabolic Diseases and Exercise Metabolism at Auckland. 

“However, this work identifies mechanisms crucial to aging that will be of use in our long-term efforts to increase lifespan and health-span. It also suggests a number of possible ways in which shorter term treatments with this drug could be used to treat certain metabolic health conditions and we are following this up now.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Aging.


By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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