Anti-cancer drugs may have potential to combat the affects of chemical weapons

Mark Buller, Ph.D., from Saint Louis University has received a contract from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency worth up to $980,000 to research the potential for two cancer medications to protect U.S. troops from biological agents.

The DTRA, a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, hired Buller, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, for the project to research antiviral potential in poxvirus infection. This research is intended to protect the U.S. military from weapons of mass destruction.

Buller will study Gleevec and Tasigna, compounds active in FDA-approved cancer medications, because of their potential to protect against a range of viruses. The medication is already known to prevent and treat monkeypox virus, which is an orthopox similar to smallpox.

"The overall focus of this contract is to see which viruses would be susceptible and succumb to the medications and which would not," Buller said.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense increased funding research in counter-measures for orthopox viruses and other dangerous pathogens that could be weaponized.

"They soon realized that they can't make unique anti-viral medications and vaccines for every potential weapon of mass destruction, and now are developing broad-spectrum anti-infectives that would be effective against many pathogens," Buller said.

Organizations in this story

U.S. Department of Defense 2 N Rotary Rd Arlington, VA 22202

National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

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