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Cancer drugs could help alcoholics.

Alcohol abuse could be treated with cancer drugs, if they work the same way in humans as they do in fruit flies. Many alcoholics can hold their drink well--one reason they overdrink. Others cannot--probably a genetic difference. A team led by Ulrike Heberlein at the University of California, San Francisco, looked at fruit flies to try to get to the bottom of this difference.

Flies respond to drink in a similar way as humans--initially hyperactive and then uncoordinated--eventually falling over and being unable to right themselves. Heberlein's team found a gene, now called happyhour, that makes fruit flies sensitive to alcohol. It appears to do this by damping down the activity of a cellular network called the epidermal growth factor (EGF) pathway.

The EGF pathway is also implicated in cancer, which suggests that anticancer drugs that interfere with this pathway might increase alcohol sensitivity and make alcohol less appealing. The team found that when they gave the drugs erlotinib and gefitinib to flies, they were more likely to be knocked out by alcohol. Rats also chose to drink less alcohol after taking erlotinib.

If these drugs also lower alcohol tolerance in people they could be used to treat alcoholism--hopefully at lower doses than those used in cancer treatment.

New Scientist 2009; 30 May
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Title Annotation:Single Suture
Publication:CME: Your SA Journal of CPD
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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