An unlikely partnership between AIDS researchers seeking new antiviral therapies and developmental biologists exploring how the brain forms has produced a promising new drug for the fight against deadly brain tumors. In cell and animal studies, the drug, originally developed as an anti-HIV medication, has slowed the growth of several kinds of brain cancers.
"I hope and would like to think that this will end up being useful in human disease," says Rosalind A. Segal of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who headed the work.
Several years ago, researchers discovered that for the AIDS virus to infect an immune cell, HIV must grab on to a cell-surface protein called a chemokine receptor. Chemokines are chemicals that guide immune cells around a body, and receptors allow the cells to detect the compounds.
When investigators created mice lacking the chemokine receptor CXCR4,