Repurposing Available Drugs Beneficial in the Treatment of Cancer

A drug used to treat kidney cancer could be effective fighting several types of the disease.

A kidney cancer drug may be able to treat several types of cancer, according to findings published in PNAS.

There have been many advances in cancer research in recent years, but a significant challenge remains in finding a chemical compound that can knock out the cancer cell communication system.

“We have just discovered that the known drug against kidney cancer, axitinib, has a molecule that can knock out the signal pathways of mutant cells,” said researcher Yi Qu.

It’s estimated that 90% of all cancers arise from mutations in cells, according to the study. Researchers believed that axitinib could potentially be used for the treatment of several types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

A recent trend in medical research, dubbed repurposing, involves the use of examining well-known available drugs to identify any unknown effects. In taking advantage of this trend, the study authors mapped more than 500 known drugs, and discovered the hidden qualities of the kidney cancer remedy.

“We have found 3 to 4 promising candidates, in addition to axitinib, for further testing," said Xisong Ke.

An advantage of repurposing existing drugs is that it’s already known how the drug is tolerated and dispersed in the body.

“Recycling of medicine is also very cost and time effective,” Ke said. “It usually takes 10 years to develop new medicines, testing included.”

The authors noted that it’s important to keep in mind that even if some of the tested chemicals are able to knock out the signaling mechanisms, it doesn’t automatically mean that the treatment is enough.

“Knocking out these mechanisms, will not cure cancer alone, but be a contribution in the fight against cancer,” said lead researcher Karl-Henning Kalland. “Cancer has to be defeated with a combined strategy.”

The findings suggest that axitinib could potentially be effective in combination with immunotherapy, according to the study.

“It is a very interesting coincidence that the specific signaling pathway that is getting attacked, both leads to a blocking of the cancer cells and stimulates the activation of immune cells, creating a great synergy effect,” Kalland said. “This synergy is to be followed up.”