UTMB professor Satish Srivastava said that combining a newly-developed drug with a drug used to fight numerous kinds of cancers makes it better suited as a colon cancer treatment. The widely-used drug, doxorubicin, is effective in fighting cancer but can be toxic to the heart when higher doses are needed.

The research, Srivastava said, shows that using aldose reductase, an enzyme, when used with doxorubicin, reduces the toxins that can damage the heart.

The researchers have shown earlier that exposure to cancer-causing agents like pollutants triggers oxidative stress, which is a driving source of cancer tissue growth. The oxidative signals are also involved in growing the new blood vessels needed by the cancer tissues. An effort to decrease the oxidative signals is one of the reasons for the popularity of antioxidant-containing foods, beverages, skin care products and vitamins.

“We’ve shown that oxidative signals can be blocked by aldose reductase, or AR, inhibitors,” said lead author Srivastava, who is a professor in UTMB’s departments of biochemistry and molecular biology as well as ophthalmology and visual sciences. “If we could prevent development of the new blood vessels in the cancer tissue driven by these signals, tumor growth and metastasis can be slowed down or prevented.”

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: Aldose reductase inhibitors are under investigation for several different potential benefits, including a reduction in the cardiovascular side effects of doxorubicin. There is a lifetime dose of doxorubicin which can be used as a result. If we can find a way to reduce or eliminate this significant side effect, it will allow us to better utilize the drug and make it safer. We do not yet have an aldose reductase inhibitor available, but hopefully studies such as these will result in something we can use clinically.