Metformin, a common diabetes drug that has been manufactured at low cost for years, has a long record of safety, effectiveness, and limited side effects in diabetics. In the mid-2000s an interesting discovery was made and published in the British Medical Journal: patients taking metformin for diabetes saw a significantly lowered risk for breast cancer (1). […]
Another cancer treatment success story involves the repurposing of all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a chemical compound historically used in medications that treat severe acne. Though it does not have anti-cancer properties when used alone, ATRA has been combined with traditional chemotherapy and to induce complete remission in 90% of patients with acute promyelocytic leukemia. The drug combination has […]
The anti-fungal compound itraconazole was developed in the 1980s, and suppresses fungal growth by inhibiting membrane function in fungal cells (1). But a 2007 study showed that the drug also has potent anti-cancer properties (2). Further studies of itraconazole on its own, and combined with other medicines, showed that it was an effective treatment for cancers […]
Dose adjustments to existing treatments
The effects of certain drugs can vary greatly based on dosage, making them ideal candidates for repurposing research. Methrotrexate was developed as a chemotherapy drug in the 1950s and has since been administered at a very high dose to cancer patients. At a low dose, and because of totally different mechanisms of the drug, […]
Dangerous originally, repurposed safely
One reason for the low success rate of novel drug development is the high percentage of adverse side effects found in late-stage clinical trials. However, failed drugs can be repurposed for different diseases with new patient populations that would not be affected by such side effects, creating benefit for both pharmaceutical companies and for patients.
Advancements in treatment have also been made by combining new drugs with repurposed old drugs that can enhance therapeutic effects or specificity. Chloroquine, a drug that has historically been used to treat malaria, has recently been combined with a new drug, Tarceva, which kills lung cancer cells. Tarceva only works for some patients, and the cancer almost always becomes resistant after […]