When you think about arsenic, you might think it's poisonous and it is, at higher doses, but it's also a lifesaver for those who have cancer or other illnesses. Arsenic Trioxide is the main ingredient in a cancer drug used to treat a very rare form of leukemia called Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia or APL as it's known. New research from Northwestern University suggests the drug could also be effective against another kind of cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). This form of cancer is an aggressive brain illness that often strikes children. Drugs, surgery, and radiation are typically used to treat it, but five-year survival rates are very low, and the prognosis is not good for those who are diagnosed with it.
The team at Northwestern found adding arsenic trioxide to a common regimen of temozolomide and radiation could help some patients. While the Phase 2 clinical trials showed it wasn't effective in all cases, looking at the data, the researchers felt that it would be a good option for some sub-groups of patients with brain cancer. The effectiveness of it varied depending on the genetic subtype of GBM that patients had. Since these tumors often have different underlying genetic signatures, the drug is only useful in some of them.