A new avenue to prevent hearing loss

Memphis, Tennessee, March 7, 2018

The drug kenpaullone binds to CDK2 within the inner ear.

The drug kenpaullone (shown in green and purple) binds to CDK2 within the inner ear.

The chemotherapy drug cisplatin may help save a child’s life. But that same medication can also damage a child’s hearing. Now, St. Jude scientists have found a compound that prevents hearing loss caused by cisplatin in laboratory models.

The drug is known as kenpaullone. It works by binding to and inhibiting the enzyme CDK2. Researchers showed that reducing the activity of CDK2 preserved hearing, in part by protecting hair cells in the inner ear. The hair cells are irreplaceable and are essential for hearing.

Currently, there are no approved drugs in the U.S. to prevent or treat hearing loss. Fifty to 70 percent of cancer patients treated with cisplatin experience hearing loss.

Jian Zuo, PhD, of St. Jude Developmental Neurobiology says more studies are needed before kenpaullone or related compounds are ready for clinical trials. A report on this study appeared in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Read the news release

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