AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – A team at UMass Amherst suggests medication that halts cancer may be able to fight against Lyme disease.

New England Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases (NEWVEC) at UMass Amherst says new research on treating Lyme disease suggests medication used to halt cancer may help fight tick-borne illness.

Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease first noticed as a rash, headache, fever, and chills, and later by possible arthritis and neurological and cardiac disorders, and this is all caused by bacteria that are transmitted by ticks. 

More than 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme each year, and over 95 percent come from ticks in just 14 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It’s a long way from something you’re going to pick up at CVS, but these early findings are very encouraging,” says vector-borne disease expert Stephen Rich, professor of microbiology, executive director of NEWVEC and senior author of the study published in the journal Pathogens.

“There are people who have cases of Lyme disease that go on and on,” Rich says. “So there’s always interest in finding new therapies or new ways to inhibit the growth of the bacterium. And based on what we’re seeing in the lab, this may be one of those ways.”

Tumor cells and Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, share a feature about the way they grow, “It turns out that cancer cells and Borrelia both rely solely on glycolysis for their metabolism,” Rich explains.

LDH inhibitors which are used as drug therapies to target certain cancers, might also be an effective strategy against Lyme disease, according to Patrick Pearson, who was working in Rich’s lab, now a NEWVEC post-doctoral researcher at UMass Amherst. 

The project was funded by the CDC with a $10 million award to prevent and reduce tick- and mosquito-borne diseases.

Local News

WWLP-22News, an NBC affiliate, began broadcasting in March 1953 providing local news, network, syndicated, and local programming to western Massachusetts. Follow 22News on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.