Breast cancer drug 'could be safe treatment' for reducing obesity and diabetes

A drug initially designed to fight breast cancer could be a safe treatment for obesity and diabetes, according to researchers at the University of Aberdeen.

The team have been studying the complex connections between obesity and type-2 diabetes which is an increasingly important area of bio-medical research.  

Tests using a drug called Fenretinide, which has been used in breast cancer trials for a number of years, revealed it can reduce obesity and type-2 diabetes in mice that eat a high-fat diet.

In a new paper, published in Biochemical Pharmacology, the team led by Dr Nimesh Mody, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences have discovered more about how Fenretinide works and have deemed it a potentially safe, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic treatment.

Obesity and type-2 diabetes present a major public health challenge. Researchers are attempting to further understand the complex connections between the two conditions.

Vitamin A and vitamin A-like molecules (called retinoids) have been shown to have major effects on body fat and blood sugar levels and thought to have a role in obesity.

Fenretinide is a retinoid and the Aberdeen team have previously shown that it can prevent or reduce obesity and type-2 diabetes in mice that eat a high-fat diet.

Dr Nimesh Mody said: “In this new publication we have discovered more about how Fenretinide works in fat cells, called adipocytes, and in mice.

“Fenretinide has beneficial effects that are similar to vitamin A but also have the effect of reducing the production of a harmful type of molecule called ceramide. 

“We think that the combination of these unrelated effects is what makes Fenretinide a potential safe, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic treatment.

“Going forward we aim to chemically modify Fenretinide to produce two different versions; one that will retain retinoid-like properties, whilst the other will be lacking them. We will compare the properties, characteristics and effects of these two compounds to see how similar they are to the original Fenretinide. Through these experiments, we aim to find out whether the beneficial effects of Fenretinide in safely reducing obesity and type-2 diabetes is due to retinoid-like properties.

“This information will help us further our understanding of the complex connections between obesity and the development of type-2 diabetes and may help us to develop new drugs that are better at treating these medical conditions.”