Game-changing method of testing drugs for off-label prescribing: Results from trial

A team of researchers in the U.S. has developed a novel new method of testing non-oncology drugs for their potential to kill cancer cells, with 49 new possible contenders already uncovered.

A type of ‘barcoding’ shortcut was employed to eliminate the need to screen thousands of compounds across hundreds of individual cancer cell lines – a laborious and time-consuming activity.

The team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Broad Institute Drug Repurposing Hub screened 578 adherent cell lines across 24 types of tumour to ‘pool together’ and ‘barcode’ their unique DNA sequence. They then ran lab tests on 6000 FDA-approved drugs or those in the early stages of clinical trials, to examine any cancer-fighting qualities that may present.

49 non-cancer drug showed some cancer cell-killing potential, with the full results of the initial clinical trial now published in Nature Cancer journal.

The researchers are upbeat about how the new screening process could vastly improve the practice of prescribing off-label medication.

“The prospect of repurposing existing drugs for new clinical indications is alluring: rapid clinical translation can occur for drugs already proven safe in humans.

“In principle, existing drugs can also establish starting points for drug development when new targets of old drugs are discovered.” the researchers affirmed in the Nature Cancer article.

Of all the drugs tested, tepoxalin showed the most promise for potential oncology use according to the researchers.

Tepoxalin was shown to destroy multidrug-resistance protein 1 which protects cancer cells from the destructive effects of chemotherapy drugs. Cancer patients who don’t respond well to chemotherapy often record high levels of this protein.