It’s common for cancer patients to be prescribed antidepressants as a means of helping them cope with an obviously traumatic diagnosis. But researchers in Israel have found that the selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor Prozac (generic name fluoxetine) can increase the effectiveness of a common anti-cancer agent, doxorubicin, by tenfold.
A study [Dr. Dan Peer of the Department of Cell Research and Immunology at Tel Aviv University] and his colleagues recently completed validates that Prozac dramatically enhances the effectiveness of a widely used anti-cancer drug.
“The good news is that the medical community won’t have to wait – Prozac can be used for this purpose right away,” says Dr. Peer, noting that doctors in the U.S. already prescribe it to treat depression in chemotherapy patients.
“Prozac is a very interesting non-specific blocker of cancer resistance,” says Dr. Peer, whose study focused on colon cancer and the anti-cancer drug doxorubicin.
In their laboratory experiments, the Tel Aviv University scientists led by graduate student Mirit Argov together with Prof. Rimona Margalit, found that Prozac enhanced doxorubicin’s efficacy more than 1,000%. Prozac, in effect, worked to block the cancer drug from leaving the interior of the cancer cell and poisoning the healthy non-cancerous cells that surrounded it.
In animal models, a mild doxorubicin-fluoxetine treatment combination slowed down tumor progression significantly. These results suggest that pairing Prozac with chemotherapeutic drugs to curb drug resistance warrants further clinical study, says Dr. Peer.
It would be interesting to have more information on the exact mechanism of action involved here. At first I assumed that fluoxetine had been found to slow hepatic metabolism of doxorubicin or something like that, but it appears that fluoxetine’s “wingman” effects on the anticancer agent are indeed direct.
The study results will be published in Cancer Letters.