Drugs increasingly used to treat cancer could have a major impact on a wide range of infectious diseases, according to new research.
Anti-angiogenic drugs are used to try and prevent cancers from stimulating the growth of the blood vessels they need to survive and grow.
New research by the Centre for Immunology and Infection at the University of York suggests the same drugs may help in the treatment of other diseases including visceral leishmaniasis which kills 70,000 people worldwide every year.
The findings, published online today by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, show that anti-angiogenic drugs can improve the structure of tissues where immune responses are generated and which are often destroyed by chronic infection or inflammation.
The resulting improvement in the immune response can increase the effectiveness of conventional treatments for leishmaniasis, allowing doctors to use lower doses of existing drugs that otherwise have harmful side effects.
Professor Paul Kaye, Director of the Centre for Immunology and Infection, said: "While our research has focused on leishmaniasis the findings could have implications for a range of globally important diseases.
"It is particularly exciting that this potential has been discovered in a class of drugs that are already well-established in clinical practice.
"Our research also identifies ways that anti-angiogenic drugs might be used more effectively in the treatment of cancers."
The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.
These findings have led to further research, supported by Yorkshire Cancer Research, into the potential use of anti-angiogenic drugs as a "preconditioning agent" in the treatment of melanoma.
Notes to editors:
Leishmaniasis is a fly-borne disease caused by single-celled parasites called Leishmania. There are approximately 2 million cases of leishmaniasis per year in 88 countries worldwide, of which 500,000 are of the potentially fatal form of the disease (visceral leishmaniasis).
The Centre for Immunology and Infection (CII) is a joint research centre created by the Hull York Medical School and the Department of Biology at the University of York. Research within the CII ranges from fundamental studies on the pathogenesis of infectious disease through to first-in-man clinical research.
Yorkshire Cancer Research is an independent, regional charity, based and operating in Yorkshire since 1925. In 2008-09 it funded research to the tune of almost £4million in centres of excellence throughout the region including Hull, Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and York Universities. The scientists and clinicians, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research are among the world leaders in the fight against cancer and the charity has committed a further £11million over the next five years to continue funding research teams across Yorkshire in their goal to find the causes and cures for cancer.
The research will be available in full at http://www.