San Diego – A study from the University of California has found that white blood cells respond better to killing bacteria if they are previously stimulated by breast cancer drug Tamoxifen in laboratory experiments.

The applications focus on treating superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), a bacterium that is resistant to most antibiotics, and estimated to have contributed to the death of 5,000 Americans in 2013. Public health officials have been hunting for an effective treatment for decades but have mostly run into dead-ends. The study published in Nature Communications raises the possibility of Tamoxifen for treatment.

Tamoxifen is a drug recommended for people whose breast cancer cells exhibited estrogen receptors, termed ER+ breast cancer. Credits:

Tamoxifen is a popular breast cancer drug used for both prevention and treatment. It fights tumors in the breast area, and plays a front role in the body’s defense system against infections by the production of neutrophil extracellular traps.

“The threat of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens is growing, yet the pipeline of new antibiotics is drying up. We need to open the medicine cabinet and take a closer look at the potential infection-fighting properties of other drugs that we already know are safe for patients,” said senior author Victor Nizet, MD, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy to EurekAlert.

The team also tested tamoxifen’s immune-boosting effect in a mouse model and discovered that after infected with MRSA, tamoxifen significantly protected mice by raising the rate of survival 35 percent.

Scientists are also testing a handful of other unconventional approaches to fight MRSA. Earlier this year they reported that a 1,100-year-old home remedy comprised of a bit of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall appeared to hold some promise in the lab.

“Through this approach, we discovered that tamoxifen has pharmacological properties that could aid the immune system in cases where a patient is immunocompromised or where traditional antibiotics have otherwise failed.” said Nizet.

Source: EurekAlert