Your Health: Drug could help shrink tumors

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 5:30 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Roughly 267,000 Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, requiring chemo, radiation and surgery.

Now, an FDA-approved anti-depressant is showing great promise in shrinking malignant tumors.

Melinda Sanchez loves her job at the library, snuggling with her dog, Mia and reading art books. Recently though, she began to be plagued by a weird sensation.

“It went on for like three months,” Sanchez said. “At nighttime, it was the worst. It wasn’t painful, it was extremely annoying.”

Doctors ordered a mammogram, which uncovered nothing. A second mammogram and an ultrasound also found nothing, but the pain continued to grow.

“I couldn’t ignore it,” Sanchez said. “I knew something was wrong.”

A tumor was revealed in a biopsy, and her doctor enrolled her in clinical trials using the anti-depressant Imipramine to shrink tumors.

“I thought it was insane actually,” Sanchez recalled. “At first, I was like, seriously?”

But scientists were ready to move on from mice to human testing. Studies suggested that Imipramine worked better than some chemo.

“We were expecting some of the chemotherapy drugs may work but we didn’t see any effect of those,” said Dr. Ratna Vadlamudi. “This one is interesting because it’s an anti-depressant already tested in the patient for 20 years.”

Imipramine stunts the growth of estrogen receptor-positive cancer cells, stopping the DNA in the cells from replicating.

“When the cancer cells grow, a lot of the damage from DNA happens,” Vadlamudi said.

Imipramine worked for Melinda to slow down her tumor’s growth.

“I feel that everybody, man or woman, that’s going through cancer, should be on this drug,” Sanches said.

The National Institutes of Health supports these repurposed drug studies. It reaches patients faster and is cheaper and preferable to starting from scratch.

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