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Drugs for HIV and AIDS trialled as brain tumour treatment

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Drugs developed to combat HIV and AIDS are being trialled for the first time in patients with multiple brain tumours.

Scientists at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth are conducting a clinical trial to see whether using anti-retroviral medications, Ritonavir and Lopinavir, could help people with Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2).

The rare inherited genetic condition causes tumours such as schwannoma (which include acoustic neuroma), ependymoma and meningioma which develop on the membrane surrounding the brain.

Professor Oliver Hanemann is Director of the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth.

He said: “This could the first step towards a systemic treatment for tumours related to NF2, both for patients who have inherited NF2 and developed multiple tumours, as well as patients who have a one-off NF2 mutation and have developed a tumour as a result.

“If results are positive and the research develops into a larger clinical trial, it would be the most significant change for patients with this condition, for whom there is no effective treatment.”

The RETREAT clinical trial, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, will expand on research by Dr Sylwia Ammoun and Professor Hanemann which showed the repurposed drugs reduced tumour growth and survival in the tumours.

During the trial, which will run for a year, patients will undergo a tumour biopsy and blood test before having 30 days of treatment with the two medications.

They will then have another biopsy and blood test to determine if the drug combination has managed to enter tumour cells and has had its intended effect.

Dr Karen Noble is Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Brain Tumour Research.

She said: “Brain Tumour Research is committed to funding research that will provide better outcomes for patients, so we are delighted that research undertaken at our Centre of Excellence has progressed into a clinical trial, bringing hope to patients with NF2 and NF2-related tumours.

“What is great about using repurposed drugs such as Ritonavir and Lopinavir, is that they have already been shown to have a strong safety profile in healthy people and those treated for HIV, which means that they can more quickly be translated from the laboratory to patients.”

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