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Methadone for Leukemia

August 26, 2008

The drug methadone could become a new treatment for leukemia.


Methadone for leukemia….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The narcotic pain reliever methadone helps people kick their addictions to opiate drugs by binding to the same receptors in the body, but without the high. Now researchers in Germany have discovered that methadone also binds to receptors on leukemia cells. Claudia Friesen, a molecular biologist at the University of Ulm in Germany, led the study.

CLAUDIA FRIESEN (University of Ulm, Germany):
Surprisingly, we found that when the methadone binds to the receptor, it can kill a leukemic cell.

What’s more, she says methadone also destroys leukemia cells that are resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation. Friesen thinks the drug could eventually be used in conjunction with conventional therapies to treat the disease, and further testing should reveal whether it could be effective against other cancers as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.