Researchers look to repurpose drugs to treat cancer

17 Feb 2017 by under Research/Treatment

587px Researcher looks through microscope 11 100x100 Researchers look to repurpose drugs to treat cancerWhat if the key to improving treatment for , a deadly cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, lies within medicines or a combination of medicines that already exist? Cancer researchers are working on just that.

Studies are testing to see if a generic drug used for more than 40 years to treat parasitic infections may hold the potential to treat an array of cancers, according to National Public Radio. The drug, mebendazole, is one of a host of drugs, including a diabetes drug and a blood pressure drug, that researchers are studying to determine their ability to be repurposed for cancer treatment.

Mebendazole is used to treat pinworms, small parasites that live in the colon and rectum, and it was by accident that Gregory Riggins, a John Hopkins University researcher, stumbled upon the idea of testing if the drug could be used as treatment for brain cancers as well. A colony of rats he had just injected with brain cancer cells developed pinworms, for which a veterinarian treated them with mebendazole. He realized the medicine not only got rid of the pinworms, but the brain cancer he injected into the mice’s brains never developed.

From there, he got funding to test whether mebendazole can be used to treat brain cancer patients, one Phase 1 study in children and another in adults, according to NPR. Riggins told the news source that so far the drug seems to be safe and well tolerated by patients. The next step would be a larger Phase 2 trial. Riggins said through the course of his research, he has learned other researchers are studying the drug’s effects on and melanoma as well.

Bruce Bloom, president and chief science officer for Cures Within Reach, which focuses on repurposing existing drugs for new medical uses, says he doubts “mebendazole or any other single repurposed drug is ever going to cure cancer,” but the combination of repurposed drugs could help better manage it.


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