Hiding in Plain Sight - Old Drug, New Use

Leukemia treatment finds promise in tigecycline

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Finding new uses for existing drugs has taken on new emphasis of late. With advanced technology making it easier to test for "new" benefits in existing drugs, medical researchers may have hit a home run with an old antibiotic.

Canadian researchers have found that Tygacil (tigecycline), an antibiotic that's currently used to treat skin and abdomen infections, shows promise in destroying leukemia cells.

"Ask about all the medications that work with your condition."

Dr. Aaron Schimmer, clinician-scientist at the Campbell Family Institute for Cancer Research in the Princess Margaret Cancer Program, University Health Network, makes an analogy between cells in the body and a power grid. He says his team has discovered how to cause a power outage among leukemia cells.

Dr. Schimmer's team put together a library of more than 500 existing drugs to test as possible leukemia treatments. A high-speed robot tested the impact of various doses on leukemia cells.

The process took only three days to find "which potential leukemia drugs might be hiding in plain sight," Dr. Schimmer said in a news release announcing the study results.

The team learned that leukemia cells are powered by unique energy requirements. They discovered it is possible to shut down energy production in the cells by blocking protein synthesis.

Finding new uses for approved drugs could speed offering new treatment options for patients. Dr. Schimmer is beginning a multi-center clinical trial testing Tygacil as a leukemia treatment.

Results from this proof-of-concept research were published in the November 14, 2011 issue of Cancer Cell.

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Review Date: 
November 14, 2011
Last Updated:
November 8, 2012