From the blog

Drug Repurposing for Mesothelioma

Published: July 15, 2022

Research at Temple University is looking at four different drug compounds, all used for noncancerous conditions, for treating mesothelioma. The research is part of a drug repurposing project, which tests drugs not typically used for illnesses like cancer to see if they work on the disease. Drug repurposing has become more popular over the years. Since these drugs are already approved as treatments for other illnesses, it can be a relatively fast process to be approved for a different illness. These drugs are also known to be safe, so they do not need to be tested as strictly for safety. This makes the drug repurposing process more efficient and a better alternative to time consuming and expensive research looking for new drugs. The findings of the Sbarro Health Research organization were published in the journal Cancers.

Researchers started with 1,170 drug compounds that were approved for other diseases. These were then narrowed to 4 compounds that had anti-cancer effects. The four compounds will be tested in vitro and in vivo, which is laboratory testing and living organism testing respectively, before mesothelioma trials can occur. The four compounds include cephalomannine, ouabain, thonzonium bromide and emetine. Cephalomannine is an anti-tumor compound that comes from the yew tree that can stop cell division. Ouabain is currently used as a treatment for congestive heart failure and ventricular arrhythmia and has been found to be effective against breast cancer and leukemia. Thonzonium bromide is an anti-fungal in ear and nasal drops which helps cellular debris disperse and penetrate. It has never been used to treat cancer. Emetine is from the ipecac plant root and is used as an anti-parasitic treatment and a home remedy for gastrointestinal issues. None of these compounds have been tested for mesothelioma.

Drug repurposing is great for illnesses like mesothelioma because they are fatal and have no cure. The traditional approach to treating mesothelioma includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The problem with this approach though is that less than one third of people diagnosed with mesothelioma can undergo surgery. The typical survival for patients who do not receive surgery is less than one year. Immunotherapy is another option, but it can be hit or miss with patients. It can be very effective in some patients and not work at all in others. Researchers believe that drug repurposing will create advancements in treating mesothelioma and other hard to treat cancers.

Repurposing became popular around 30 years ago when scientists started looking at drugs to see if they could be used for other medical issues. It takes a long time to research and get drugs approved (around 15 years). It can take around half the time to repurpose a drug for a different illness. It is also much cheaper. This can be great for mesothelioma because not a lot of money goes toward the disease. According to research, there are around 300 drugs not used for treating cancer that have shown anti-cancer effects in the past few years. The solution is to try these compounds on different cancers to see if they could be effective as cancer treatments.

“Drug Repurposing Identifies New Candidates to Treat Mesothelioma” News Wise (June 28, 2022). [Link]
Irene Dell’Anno et al., “A Drug Screening Revealed Novel Potential Agents against Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma” Cancers (May 2o, 2022). [Link]
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