Famous for its statues, Easter Island could become known for a drug discovered in the dirt that could help prevent cancer.
Dr. Dave Sharp, a professor of molecular medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, says Rapamycin was first used as a fungicide. Now it is being used as an anti-cancer therapy and an immuno-suppressant.
“To prevent transplant rejection,” said Dr. Sharp.
Then he got the idea that Rapamycin might help extend life too.
“And everybody said oh that’s a crazy idea,” said Dr. Sharp.
But studies showed mice given the drug lived up to 30 percent longer.
“They look younger. They act younger. They’re more mobile,” Dr. Sharp added.
Oncologist Dr. Tyler Curiel says, “”The mice that got Rapamycin appeared to have their cancers prevented.”
Now they’re giving mice cancer-causing chemicals to see if the drug boosts their immunity and kill cancer cells as soon as they appear.
“There’s a lot of evidence that it boosts your immunity,” said Dr. Curiel.
If Rapamycin really does prevent the disease in mice, “perhaps eventually people will be able to take this drug,” says Dr. Sharp.
A two-year, $450,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute is helping to fund the research. Dr. Curiel is hopeful that human trials can start in about two years.