The work is the result of a collaboration between Wilson's lab, in UCSB's Department of Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and a lab in the School of Biosciences and Bioengineering of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in India.
"The drug has remarkably few side effects and has been used for a long time," said Wilson. Griseofulvin is administered orally, and has been used for decades to treat ringworm and other fungal infections of the skin.
"We discovered that it has the ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, in a manner that is similar to much more powerful anticancer drugs such as taxol and vinblastine," said Wilson. "Although the anti-cancer activity is weak, it is already approved for human use and could be used along with more powerful anticancer agents as an adjuvant in cancer chemotherapy."
The authors found that the drug inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells by affecting mitosis, or cell division, and mitotic spindle microtubule function. They conclude: "A mild suppression of microtubule dynamics by griseofulvin in tumor cells, combined with the effects of more powerful drugs working through other mechanisms, might provide a therapeutic advantage for treatment of certain tumors."