Study co-author Robert D. Arnold, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy, said the mice suffered fewer side effects compared with traditional cancer treatment relying on heavy doses that can cause hair and bone loss.
Chemotherapy given repeatedly in small portions -- metronomic dosing -- is not new, but dosing appears to alter the cellular activity of the drug topotecan, Arnold said.
The finding, published in the journal Cancer Biology and Therapy, suggests metronomic dosing of topotecan can reduce prostate cancer growth at drug concentrations far below those that can be toxic to healthy cells in the body.
"At these lower doses, there isn't enough topotecan to follow a classic cell death pathway," Arnold said in a statement. "Our research suggests that metronomic dosing altered topotecan's behavior."
Topotecan given to patients in large, traditional doses kills cancer cells by deactivating proteins in enzymes necessary for cell growth, Arnold said. By contrast, metronomic dosing of topotecan prevents new blood vessels-which are necessary for growth from forming in the tumor.
Arnold and colleagues discovered topotecan did not change the amount of blood vessels formed (which feed tumor growth), but significantly decreased tumor size and altered genes critical for controlling cell growth.