Though anti-depressants are used widely for most psychiatric conditions, they have not been portrayed in positive light of late. For a change, professionals from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have shown how a certain antidepressant could be beneficial in cancer treatment.

An anti-depressant called tranylcypromine (TCP) could be used in combination with a vitamin A –derivative to combat acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), the team hypothesized.

“Retinoids have already transformed one rare type of fatal leukaemia into a curable disease. We’ve now found a way to harness these powerful drugs to treat far more common types of leukaemia,” senior author Dr Zelent, from the ICR,” commented team leader Dr Arthur Zelent.

All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which is a derivative of vitamin A was found to be effective in treating a rare form of AML in previous studies. However, this drug did not seem to work for common forms of AML.

The study was conducted with the main objective of uncovering the mechanism behind low responsiveness of cancer cells to this drug. According to experts, ATRA functioned by causing the tumor cells to develop and die naturally. However, as certain genes playing a role in the process became deactivated, the damaging cells did not respond favorably to the derivative.

Nevertheless, TCP apparently restrained an enzyme called LSD1, which seemed to activate the critical genes once again. Thus, the cancer cells reacted optimally to ATRA in the process, which caused their death.

The investigators concluded that this study holds great promise in the realm of AML treatment as the drugs used presently appear to be highly-invasive. This report is published in the journal, Nature Medicine.