Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Cancer trial drug hope for asthma patients

Asthma inhaler
Patients use inhalers to help them with asthma symptoms

A drug being tested to treat cancer could also help patients suffering from asthma, according to Edinburgh experts.

Edinburgh University experts found the drug, R-Roscovitine, helps kill certain immune cells, which can exacerbate symptoms associated with asthma.

It could lead to an alternative way to treat asthma in patients who are resistant to steroid treatments.

The scientists studied the effect the drug had on immune cells known as eosinophils.

Eosinophils, found in the lungs and airways, help the body fight off parasitic infection.

'Unwanted side-effects'

However, too many uncontrolled eosinophils can damage other cells that line the lung, contributing to inflammatory conditions such as asthma.

Researchers found that use of the drug caused the eosinophil cells to undergo a form of cell death known as apoptosis, a natural process where unwanted cells are removed from the body.

Professor Adriano Rossi, of the centre for inflammation research at Edinburgh University who directed the study, said: "Steroids are commonly used to treat asthma but can have unwanted side-effects, while some asthma patients are also resistant to steroid treatment.

"It may well be that use of a drug, such as R-Roscovitine, or one that works in a similar same way, could offer an alternative to steroids, or be used in conjunction with steroid treatment for asthma patients."

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