University of Auckland’s Waipapa Taumata Rau trial shows that long-term treatment of healthy middle-aged mice (1 year) with a cancer drug increases lifespan by 10%, equivalent to 3 years on average.
In the study, mice were fed a control diet or a diet with the addition of a drug called alpelisib. The mice fed the drug-containing diet not only lived longer but also showed signs of better health in old age, such as improved coordination and strength. However, the researchers are cautious about applying these results to humans as the mice treated with the drug also had negative markers of aging such as lower bone mass.
“Ageing is not only about lifespan but also about quality of life,” says research fellow Dr. Chris Hedges. “Therefore, we were pleased to see this drug treatment not only increased longevity of the mice but they also showed many signs of healthier ageing. We are working now to understand how this happens.”
Principal investigator Associate Professor Troy Merry says: “We are not suggesting that anyone should go out and take this drug long-term to extend lifespan, as there are some side effects. However, this work identifies mechanisms crucial to ageing that will be of use in our long-term efforts to increase lifespan and health-span. It also suggests a number of possible ways in which shorter term treatments with this drug could be used to treat certain metabolic health conditions and we are following this up now.”
Alpelisib targets an enzyme called PI 3-kinase. “We have been working on developing drugs to target PI 3-kinase for more than 20 years as evidence indicated they would be useful to treat cancers, as many cancers have an excess activation of this pathway,” said the researcher.
“Therefore, it’s great to see that these drugs might have uses in other areas and reveal novel mechanisms contributing to age-related diseases. It also shows the value of long-term investment in research in areas such as this.”