A drug used to fight breast cancer could be safe for treating type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to researchers at the University of Aberdeen.
The drug, Fenretinide, inhibits the growth of several human cancer cell lines, and has been used in breast cancer trials for several years.
Previous studies from the University of Aberdeen concluded that Fenretinide could reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes in mice that eat a high-fat diet. Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, and the Aberdeen researchers are attempting to further understand the relationship between the two conditions.
In this new study, a team at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences discovered more about how Fenretinide works in fat cells, known as adipocytes, and in mice.
Retinoids, which are vitamin A and vitamin A-like molecules, are known to have major effects on body fat and blood sugar levels. They are also thought to have a role in obesity.
Lead author Dr. Nimesh Mody, said: “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.”
The researchers hope to chemically modify Fenretinide to produce two versions of the drug. One will retain retinoid-like properties, but the other version will lack them.
The two versions will then be compared to vitamin A and vitamin A-like molecules to assess their similarity to the original Fenretinide. The researchers will then examine whether the retinoid-like properties of Fenretinide can safely reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Mody added: “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.”

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