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LDN's Anti-Cancer Effects

Dr. Wai Liu
January 19, 2018
Interview with Dr. Wai Liu of St. George's University of London

Dr. Wai Liu received his PhD in Medical Oncology from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, University of London in 2001. During this time, he developed models to assess the effect of combining chemotherapies with other treatment modalities as a way of enhancing activity. Dr. Liu has worked in a cancer research environment for over twenty years. He is a prominent scientist in the field of cannabinoid research, which is an area he has actively engaged for over fifteen years. His team was the first to demonstrate a benefit in combining cannabinoids and irradiation in models of brain cancer. Other interests of Dr. Liu have been to develop new combination strategies that utilize re-purposed agents. These have included naltrexone, artemisinin and the IMiDs. He has also investigated ways of enhancing anticancer activity by modifying the pathological associations between immune and tumor cells by using immune-targeting drugs. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Infection and Immunity of St. George’s University of London, has over 50 publications in the field of cancer research, and worked in collaborations with pharma including GW Pharma, Celgene, AstraZeneca and Novartis to develop new agents and to perform pre-clinical work; a number of these has continued successfully into Phase I and II trials. Dr. Liu welcomes questions and can be contacted via his twitter account: @wai_liu

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Dr. Liu, given the current state of knowledge, how do you think LDN is best used as a support to other cancer treatment(s)?

My general feeling is that the multi-faceted nature of LDN means it is quite an adaptable compound. We and others have shown that it can impact both immune cells and cancer cells, and in doing so, possibly alter the way that the body's immune system interacts with cancer cells. Specifically with regards to the direct effects on cancer cells, there is evidence to suggest that LDN can modify a number of proteins within these cancer cells. As these proteins can influence the way that some cancer cells grow and survive, I think that LDN could be used in conjunction with, and to support the effects of, more conventional treatments.

Specifically with regards to the direct effects on cancer cells, there is evidence to suggest that LDN can modify a number of proteins within these cancer cells.
Which cancers have you studied using LDN, and which seem to be most responsive to LDN therapy?

My work has been limited to in vitro (laboratory) studies in cancer; as part of this approach, a large number of cancer types have been screened. We have seen modulation of cancer function in a number of these cancer cell lines, but so far, there have not been any particular types that stand out as being "more responsive" to LDN. In a bizarre way, this makes LDN a more interesting drug! Sometimes we can get too distracted by the positive results. It is always exciting to see LDN altering cancer cells, causing them to die; however, I want to understand why some cancer cells are less responsive, why some do not die. Are there ways we can adapt treatment schedules to improve effectiveness? I believe that it is only by understanding the limitations of LDN that we can push through them, and ultimately increase the number of patients that could benefit from using it.

It is always exciting to see LDN altering cancer cells, causing them to die; however, I want to understand why some cancer cells are less responsive, why some do not die.
What are the current questions you are exploring in your LDN research? Please describe the current clinical trial you are working on.

We feel that LDN has the potential to be used in a cancer setting through its effects on intracellular functions. Our earlier data provided us with clues as to how LDN may be working to counteract cancer growth, and so we're currently exploring the best combinations and schedules that could be employed to optimize this effect overall. The longer term plan is: guided by these in vitro (laboratory) studies, to design formal clinical trials to assess the efficacy of LDN in patients.

What do you think are the next questions we should be asking in determining LDN's effectiveness in cancer treatment?

I think it is important to establish the best therapeutic regimen/schedule by which LDN should be used. Although the science supports strongly the "anti-cancer" effects of LDN, without the formal clinical trials, this drug will never be accepted more widely. I also think that establishing the interaction between LDN and immune-function is crucial in determining the overall role for LDN in patients. I have only mentioned the direct effects of LDN, as my work has recently been in this field, but it is important to also establish how best to dovetail these direct anticancer effects with the immune-modulatory ones, in order to optimize and maximize efficacy.

I also think that establishing the interaction between LDN and immune-function is crucial in determining the overall role for LDN in patients.
What is your advice to physicians who have yet to prescribe LDN because of the absence of "gold standard" clinical trials?

This is always a difficult question to answer. I am not a clinician, and so will always cede to them all things to do with the patient-physician relationship. I would just say that the science suggests LDN has a particular mechanism of action that has been shown in studies to be capable of impeding the way that certain cancer cells grow and survive. I sense that, in some situations, the difficulty can be determining: which drug should I use for this patient? So physicians profile the cancer in their patients, and they rightly use these signatures to select treatments best suited to target the cancer cells. LDN is one drug that may just fit the bill.

...the science suggests LDN has a particular mechanism of action that has been shown in studies to be capable of impeding the way that certain cancer cells grow and survive.
What are your current thoughts for patients who have failed conventional cancer therapies and are interested to try LDN?

Although LDN has been shown to be active in certain cancers in the laboratory, and compelling testimonies about its activity gleaned from websites, it has not officially been recognized as an anticancer drug. I am conscious that this may not be helpful, but the situation is that LDN, as a potential cancer therapy, is still in development. I would say there are always a number of clinical trials that are regularly initiated. These can be found on a number of websites, and they would be a good gateway to understanding and getting a feel for what potential new therapies may be available. I would urge patients to collect as much information about possible new treatments, and then mention them to their doctors, posing such questions as, "How does this work and why should I not be on it?"