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Common solvent found to have anti-cancer properties


May 8, 2014

Dr. Jake Shortt discovered a common industrial solvent called NMP has anti-cancer properties

Dr. Jake Shortt discovered a common industrial solvent called NMP has anti-cancer properties

Researchers from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, have found that a N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone (NMP), a common solvent used in a wide array of industrial and medical products, has cancer-fighting properties. The discovery came about thanks to an observant researcher, and now the solvent is set to be put to the test in a world-first clinical trial on patients with advanced blood cancer.

NMP has long been regarded as a basic, stable and inactive solvent, which led to it being used in everything from paints, fabrics, medical patches and dental barriers. For many years, it has also been used as a solvent for the transportation, storage and delivery of many compounds. This also meant is had been overlooked in the laboratory.

But in 2010, Dr. Jake Shortt from Peter Mac's Gene Regulation Laboratory noticed that pre-clinical models of myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer that develops from damaged plasma cells, were responding to a control dose of NMP. Enlisting the help of Peter Mac's Haematology Immunology Translational Research Laboratory (HITRL), NMP was found to target a class of gene-regulating proteins and effectively "reprogram" myeloma cells.

"This reprogramming reawakens thousands of genes that have been silenced in the cancer cells, immediately stopping the myeloma cells from growing, while activating the immune system to respond to the cancer," says Dr. Shortt.

The fact that safe levels of NMP in humans are already well established has helped accelerate the research, enabling a phase I clinical trial due to commence later this year to already reach the advanced planning stage.

"We’re at an advantage with this trial because we can immediately start at dosage levels within those recommended under occupational health and safety guidelines," says Professor David Ritchie, co-Head of the HITRL and Chief Investigator of the phase I clinical trial. "It is extremely exciting to have this new insight into NMP, which is comparatively cost-effective and plentiful, compared to novel treatments developed by pharmaceutical companies, and hopefully holds promise for new or improved treatments in other cancer types."

Source: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Big pharma will squash this and we will never hear of this again.

Denis Klanac

going to Home-depot now... hope I'm not too late...

Michiel Mitchell

I think Denis is right, not trying to be pessimistic. That's what most likely will happen.


This kind of information needs front page treatment and war like financing. I we determined cancer as that which it really is, an enemy of the world and life itself, we could end this plague that takes millions of people from us each year.


Well, this is a twist -- an industrial solvent that might help fight cancer rather than causing it. I wonder if this could replace BPA and other estrogen-mimicking solvents in plastic containers.


What am I missing here. I've used 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidinone (apparent synonym for the above chemical) only a very few times and in very small quantities. Unless I have a mixup going on, this stuff is quite nasty - http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/product/sial/494496?lang=en®ion=US


Hydrogen peroxide is a solvent and might have anti-cancer properties. Do your research and use wisely.

Henry Van Campa

This needs to be addressed first http://www.who.int/ipcs/publications/cicad/en/cicad35.pdf


I can't see how big pharma could stop this, or why they would want to.

NMP is commonly available at low costs everywhere. It's not banned anywhere.

There will be numerous companies (including big pharma companies) around the world trying to make a profit out of this, which is a good thing.


Some caution is advised, since this compound is listed as potentially being toxic to the reproductive system.


However, I'm sure curing cancer will be more important for most patients than being able to reproduce.

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