Body mass index (BMI) and abdominal circumference (waistline) also were reduced, while all three measures were unchanged in untreated control monkeys. Imaging studies also showed a substantial decrease in body fat among treated animals.
"Development of this compound for human use would provide a non-surgical way to actually reduce accumulated white fat, in contrast to current weight-loss drugs that attempt to control appetite or prevent absorption of dietary fat," said co-senior author Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson's David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers.
Previous attempts to treat obesity have predominantly focused on drugs aimed at suppressing appetite or increasing metabolism, the researchers noted, but these efforts have been hampered by their toxic side-effects. The MD Anderson group designed a new drug, which includes a homing agent that binds to a protein on the surface of fat-supporting blood vessels and a synthetic peptide that triggers cell death. Their blood supply gone, fat cells are reabsorbed and metabolized.
"Obesity is a major risk factor for developing cancer, roughly the equivalent of tobacco use, and both are potentially reversible" said co-senior author Wadih Arap, M.D., Ph.D., also professor in the Koch Center. "Obese cancer patients do worse in surgery, with radiation or on chemotherapy -- worse by any measure."