Blood cancers patients could be treated with Low-cost arthritis drugs. A simple arthritis drug could be an efficient and low-cost solution in treating patients with blood cancer. The drug generally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – called methotrexate (MTX) – significantly lessens the symptoms affiliated with blood cancers polycythemia vera (PV) and essential thrombocythemia (ET).
Around 6,000 people every year in Britain are diagnosed with either PV or ET, related blood cancers that cause an overproduction of red blood cells (PV) or blood-clotting platelets (ET). Patients usually suffer from itching, headaches, weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats.
Building on earlier Medical Research Council-funded work, the study led by Dr Martin Zeidler, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Biomedical Science, and Dr Sebastian Francis from the Department of Haematology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, as well as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, found that MTX improved symptoms and may also reduce raised blood counts.
Although contemporary treatments are normally able to manage the increased blood counts, they provide little relief from symptoms that can often have a vital influence on the quality of life.
The study observed the hospital records of 11 existing ET and PV patients already taking methotrexate for other diseases. Despite the study involving small numbers of patients and the presence of background rheumatoid arthritis, they recorded significantly lower symptom scores than patients not taking methotrexate.
Dr. Zeidler was quoted as saying: “While it is still required to commence a clinical trial to verify the findings, our results are very promising. It suggests that a simple drug that has been used for nearly 4 decades to treat arthritis can provide significant relief to blood cancer sufferers too.
Patients we tested showed a clear improvement in symptoms, something that conventional treatments have been unable to provide.
“As MTX is very cheap, this study could offer effective therapy on a budget accessible to healthcare systems throughout the world – thus indicating a possibly substantial clinical and health economic benefit.”