More than 300 existing drugs have anticancer effects | Anticancerfund

More than 300 existing drugs have anticancer effects

In the news
14 November 2019

Brussels - The Anticancer Fund has identified 300 drugs with the potential to be used as new cancer treatments. These drugs are on the market to treat other diseases, but they’ve shown evidence of anti-cancer effects in laboratory experiments or in people. Further research is necessary, but these drugs could potentially increase the survival of cancer patients.

The 300 drugs are listed in the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) database, curated by the Anticancer Fund. Repurposing is a strategy to find new treatments for diseases by looking at existing medicines rather than by creating totally new drugs. The database was founded in 2014 as part of the ReDO project, an international collaboration between the Anticancer Fund and the US-base not for profit foundation GlobalCures.

The database, freely accessible online, lists each of the drugs and the type of evidence that shows anticancer effects, including test tube (in vitro) studies, animal studies (in vivo) and human data. Over 70 percent of the drugs have human data showing anticancer effects, including data from published case reports, observational studies and clinical trials.

Many of the drugs are widely available and at low cost

Analysis of the database shows that of the 300 drugs, nearly 70 percent are included in the World Health Organisation’s Essential Medicines List, making these drugs globally available. Moreover, 85 percent are off-patent, which means that many of them are available at low cost.

According to Dr Pan Pantziarka, director of Drug Repurposing at the Anticancer Fund, “This is a huge pipeline of drugs to explore clinically in a range of different cancer types. Some of these drugs, for example propranolol, show excellent therapeutic potential as additions to standard therapies.” Propranolol is a beta blocker to treat high blood pressure. Evidence reveals that the drug is effective in the metastatic cascade for patients with breast cancer and has also been used to successfully treat some patients with angiosarcoma

Increasing the survival of cancer patients

The newest addition to the ReDO database, ursodeoxycholic acid, also known as ursodiol, is a drug used to treat biliary cirrhosis and gallstones. However, there is laboratory evidence for anticancer effects in melanoma, pancreatic, gastric, colorectal and other cancers. Currently there is only one active clinical trial, in Stage IV colorectal cancer where it is being combined with existing treatments.

With the recent addition of ursodeoxycholic acid, the database has now reached 300 drugs – a far larger number than initially anticipated when the ReDO project was founded.

The database is being actively managed so that it can remain up-to-date with the latest information and act as a source for researchers and clinicians looking for candidate drugs to treat specific diseases. So far the database has been used to identify new drug candidates in osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, pancreatic cancer and cholangiocarcinoma for example.

ReDO is important

The ReDO database and the potential of repurposing as a source of new treatments is being presented this week at a conference at Emory University in Atlanta, United States. The conference ‘Innovating with Existing Drugs and Nutraceuticals’ inaugurates the creation of the Morningside Center for Innovative and Affordable Medicine at Emory University. Lydie Meheus, managing director of the Anticancer Fund, and Gauthier Bouche, director clinical research of the Anticancer Fund, are invited speakers to the conference.

“An essential message is that drug repurposing has led to hundreds of new therapeutic options for patients across many areas of medicine. Repurposing is actually part of the natural history of a drug. Once a drug is approved for clinical use the hunt for new uses begins”, emphasises Gauthier Bouche, director clinical research of the Anticancer Fund. “Everybody realises that the high cost of new cancer drugs is not sustainable. Affordability of medicines is a major concern and drug repurposing is one solution.”

Find out more about the conference 'Innovating with Existing Drugs and Nutraceuticals' here
ReDO database: www.redo-project.org/db