Cancer drug can halt contractions and may help prevent premature labour.

premature baby
Image by maria mono via Flickr

A drug used to treat cancer can stop contractions and may even prevent premature labour, researchers from Newcastle University have claimed.

The research team tested the drug Trichostatin A on samples of tissue taken from over thirty women undergoing a caesarean birth.

Trichostatin A (TSA) is known as a drug used to promote the death of cancer cells.

They stated the therapy worked by controlling muscle relaxation through increasing the levels of a particular protein.

One spokesperson stated with rates of premature births increasing a new treatment was badly needed as there are 50,000 premature babies born each year in the UK.

As pre-term labour and early birth currently account for the largest cause of death in infants in the developed world.  With statistics suggesting that the mortality rate caused by issues related to pre-term labour and early birth as around 1,500 infants in the UK each year alone.

There are a number of drugs available for treatment that help to prevent early labour, however, most of the available drugs can have serious side effects.

The research team were given permission to take the samples of the muscles from the female patients undergoing caesarean sections at a Newcastle hospital in order to conduct and confirm their tests and the results they achieved


They exposed the muscle to Trichostatin A and measured the effects of both spontaneous contractions and those induced by Oxytocin a labour control drug.

The researchers results found indicated an average 46% reduction in contractions for the spontaneously contracting tissue.  Increasing to an average of a 54% reduction in the Oxytocin induced contractions.

It has been previously shown that the protein Kinase A (PKA) is involved in controlling the relaxation of the uterus during pregnancy.

The researcher team were able to demonstrate that through the use of Trichostatin A that the levels of a protein sub-unit of Kinase A were increased.

Professor Nick Europe-Finner, the leader of the research team, said: “We will not give this drug to a patient because it can damage as many as 10% of the genes in a cell; But it does show us that other more specific agents that act on the same enzymes but only one at a time are worth investigating.”

New treatment

Dr Yolande Harley, deputy director of research at Action Medical Research that funded the study, said: “This project has uncovered some of the molecular pathways that regulate uterine contractions and so could be linked to premature birth”.

“It could have a role in preventing premature birth – finding a new treatment for early labour would be a major step forward”.

Professor Jane Norman, a spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (RCOG), said: “At the moment, it’s not possible to treat pre-term labour effectively.  We only have drugs that delay it by 24 hours or so – not enough to deliver the baby safely”.

“One of the interesting things about this research is that they are using a new kind of drug – the drugs we are currently using have been around for a long time”.

“And they are targeting pathways we have not known about before”.

“When you consider that pre-term birth rates are rising in all four countries of the UK a new more effective drug is badly needed.”

Source: BBC News at one

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sandy Naidu
    Feb 16, 2010 @ 23:29:09

    My daughter was premature – any advances in science in preventing premature birth is good…


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