Drugs for other diseases could be used for cancers

9 February 2016

Drugs and antibiotics used to treat heart disease and infections could have a role in cancer treatment.

In cancer, tumour suppressor genes (TSG) which are the body’s natural defence mechanism against cancer, are switched off, allowing cancer cells to multiply. Trawling through over 1000 drugs already approved by the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) for other conditions, scientists at the University of Montreal discovered eleven drugs that reactivated these tumour suppressor genes through an epigenetic mechanism not previously observed.

Whilst there are currently four clinically approved drugs known to reprogram cancer cells these act on epigenetic changes resulting from histone modification or DNA methylation. The newly identified drugs, most of which are used in patients with heart conditions, all triggered activity by the enzyme, calcium-calmodulin kinase (CamK). None of the 11 drugs effected changes in the other two epigenetic mechanisms.

The discovery of this third pathway, and one in which eleven already approved drugs show potential raises the possibility of speeding up the expansion of the number of drugs effective for cancer patients.

Since these drugs' safety and efficacy in humans are already known and proven, they may readily go through clinical validation and be made available to patients more quickly." said lead author Noël Raynal, professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Montreal.

The study is published online in Cancer Journal.

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