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Drug targeting brain cancer cells not proven effective – yet

A post making the rounds on Facebook says “students at the University of Findlay College of Pharmacy have developed a chemical compound that kills glioblastoma (brain cancer) cells”.

It claims the students have refined the compound to "ignore healthy brain tissue and focus on the cancer cells”.

The news has been shared on Kenyan Facebook pages and websites around the world.

The University of Findlay is in the US state of Ohio and does have a college of pharmacy. But have students there developed this new drug, as claimed? We checked.

What’s true?

According to the neurosurgery department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), glioblastoma, or glioblastoma multiforme, is the most common and most aggressive type of brain cancer.

“Glioblastomas are difficult to treat. However, surgical removal of the glioblastoma by craniotomy can be beneficial for some people, both to alleviate symptoms associated with the tumour and to extend survival and life expectancy following radical removal,” said UPMC.

According to the University of Findlay, there are pharmacy students at the college developing an oral compound that targets glioblastomas.

In an August 2019 article the university said: “This was originally a passion project of Professor Rahul Khupse who has been working with his students for four years, teaching them to perform reactions, find compounds and choose the methodology. As from [2020], Dr Khupse and his students plan to continue working on this research through animal testing.”

If this research is successful, it would be a breakthrough that would give a better prognosis to patients diagnosed with glioblastoma. It could “remove the need for risky medical procedures which require physical access to the brain tissue”.

What’s not true?

Africa Check contacted the University of Findlay to verify if the claims circulating worldwide are true or not.

Media relations coordinator Joy Brown said: “While we see promise in the compound that’s being developed within our College of Pharmacy to combat glioblastoma, the process remains in its infancy at a pre-clinical stage, with tests still being conducted at the initial chemical level.”

“Years worth of research remains until it’s known if the drug would be safe and effective for humans. Additional drug development would take place by a larger institution or organisation that would have the means to conduct such intricate, long-term clinical studies,” said Brown.

The bottom line is that this potential drug that might combat glioblastoma has not yet been developed, as claimed. – Grace Gichuhi


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