Valproic acid is currently used to treat seizures, mood disorders, and migranes. Research is underway to investigate the drug as a possible prevenative treatment for neck and head cancers. A new study performed on veternans who took valproic acid to treat headaches, seizures, and PTSD demonstrated a 34% reduction in the rate of development head or neck cancer. The effects of the drug were most pronounced in smokers.
“A 34 percent risk reduction for the development of head and neck cancer with valproic acid use could result in the prevention of up to approximately 16,000 new cases and 3,000 to 4,000 annual deaths in the U.S. alone,” said Dr. Johann Christoph Brandes, who headed the study. “Head and neck cancer is an important global health crisis, and low cost and low-toxicity prevention strategies like valproic acid use have a high potential impact on pain, suffering, costs, and mortality associated with this disease.”
Researchers began to study valproic acid because medical research has proved it can affect certain tumors. Brandes’s team studied veterans who took valproic acid under brand name drugs like Epilim, Depakote, and Valpro.
Although valproic acid reduced the rates of head and neck cancer in the study, it did not affect the rates of other cancers such as lung, prostate ,or colon cancer. Researchers believe that the study could help save lives, as over 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with head or neck cancer each year. One fourth of those diagnosed with the disease die every year.