According to a new study published in the journal EBioMedicine, researchers from St George's, University of London in London, United Kingdom, have found that artesunate could be effective for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
For the study, researchers sought to investigate the use of artesunate, a common anti-malaria drug that has shown anti-cancer effects in vitro, in a small group of patients with colorectal cancer. Researchers randomly assigned patients to receive either artesunate 200mg orally or placebo. Researchers were also blinded to which patients were in each treatment arm.
Patients took 14 artesunate or placebo for 14 days, then underwent surgery 2 to 3 days later. Of those enrolled, 22 patients completed the study. At 42 months post-surgery, one of 10 patients who received artesunate experienced recurrence compared with six of 12 patients in the placebo group.
Researchers estimated the survival rate beyond 2 years in the artesunate group to be 91% and the rate of surviving the first recurrence in the placebo group to be 57%.
Larger studies are necessary to determine whether artesunate should be included in anticancer regimens, but the findings of this study suggest that artesunate may be an effective and cheaper adjunct for the treatment of patients with colorectal cancer.
The researchers behind the study – from St George’s, University of London in the UK – write about their findings in the journal EBioMedicine. They describe how the drug artesunate – a common anti-malaria medicine – showed a promising effect in slowing tumor cell proliferation in a small group of colorectal cancer patients before they had their tumors surgically removed.
Colorectal cancer – cancer of the colon and rectum – accounts for around 10% of the annual 746,000 global cases of cancer in men per year and 614,000 cases in women. It affects all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in the over-50s.