Ipecac syrup, the old vomit-inducing remedy once used in case of accidental poisoning, has been found to be a promising new chemotherapy drug for bladder cancer.
A study by Loyola University Medical Center has found the active ingredient in ipecac syrup — emetine dihydrochloride — effectively blocks the growth of bladder cancer cells, especially when combined with the standard chemotherapy drug cisplatin, used to treat the disease.
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"There is an urgent need to develop new drug combinations," said Gopal Gupta, M.D., an assistant professor of urology and oncology who led the study published online in The Journal of Urology. "Our study demonstrates that combining emetine with cisplatin is potentially beneficial, and merits further study in clinical trials."
The active ingredient of ipecac syrup comes from the flowering plant Psychotria ipecacuanha. It was once common in many medicine cabinets, but is no longer is recommended to induce vomiting after swallowing poison because it does not help, and may even cause harm.
For the new study, Loyola researchers exposed cell lines of normal and cancerous bladder cells to emetine alone and to emetine plus cisplatin. The study found, for the first time, that emetine alone inhibits the proliferation of bladder cancer cell lines and also boosts the effectiveness of cisplatin, without affecting normal cells.
Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and the 9th most common cancer in women and is often deadly.
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