Cancer Drug May Mitigate Compulsive Cocaine Memories Interview with:
Dr Stefania Fasano
Cardiff University What is the background for this study?

Response: Exposure to drugs of abuse such as cocaine produces intense and long-lasting memories that are critical in the transition from recreational drug-taking to uncontrolled drug use. In the brain, addictive drugs usurp cellular circuits and signalling molecules involved in normal memory processes; hence, these drug-related memories resist extinction and contribute to high rates of relapse. Despite almost five decades of experimental research, there are currently no approved medications for cocaine dependence. What are the main findings?

Response: Here, we report the effect of a compound from Pfizer, called PD325901, able to obliterate cocaine-associated memories and significantly accelerate the end of drug seeking behaviour in animals. The importance of our findings is twofold:

  • Firstly, a single administration is enough to obtain this remarkable inhibitory effect on cocaine related memories and
  • Secondly, this compound currently being used in cancer trials, could be easily repositioned for treatment of cocaine addiction and other drugs of abuse. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Cocaine addiction is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder with harmful and devastating consequences. Deciphering its psychopathology in human is difficult and identifying new pharmacotherapies is even more challenging. However, the availability of this drug already validated in humans for other non-neuropsychiatric conditions, could speed up the clinical development of our findings and pave the way for new pharmacotherapies. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future experiments will be addressed to investigate the efficacy of the PD325901 with other illegal drugs and most importantly legal drugs like nicotine and alcohol. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Alessandro Papale, Ilaria Maria Morella, Marzia Tina Indrigo, Rick Eugene Bernardi, Livia Marrone, Francesca Marchisella, Andrea Brancale, Rainer Spanagel, Riccardo Brambilla, Stefania Fasano. Impairment of cocaine-mediated behaviours in mice by clinically relevant Ras-ERK inhibitors. eLife, 2016; 5 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.17111

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on September 1, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD