"Re-purposing" Drugs to Fight Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer cells respond to a number of approved medications

(RxWiki News) Developing new drugs takes years of research and costs millions of dollars. That's why scientists often look at the existing pool of pharmaceutical medications as possible solutions for a wide range of diseases.

Researchers explored "re-purposing" established drugs to treat thyroid cancer and found a number of promising agents.

Such an approach could save valuable time, not only in developing such therapies, but also in organizing clinical trials to test the effectiveness of drugs that have already been proven safe.

"Ask your oncologist about new medicines being used to treat your condition."

This current study evaluated the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Chemical Genomic Center’s pharmaceutical collection, which contains 2,816 approved drugs and compounds. Researchers tested these drugs at varying strengths on thyroid cancer cell lines to identify agents with anti-cancer effects.

Using this approach called quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS), a number of agents were found to have some level of therapeutic value against the thyroid cancer cells.

“The compounds found to have potent activity in our screen represent possible opportunities to repurpose these drugs for the treatment of patients with aggressive recurrent or metastatic thyroid cancer,” said lead study author Electron Kebebew, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute.

Knowing the drug characteristics will help clinicians translate these findings into new therapies, says Kebebew. Promising drugs can be tested in clinical trials or for off-label use.

“Furthermore, qHTS could be used for identifying therapeutics not only for cancer, but for many other diseases,” Dr. Kebebew pointed out.

Other researchers working on the study include: Lisa Zhang, Mei He and Naris Nilubol of the National Cancer Institute and Yaqin Zhang and Min Shen of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

Findings from this study will appear in the March, 2012 issue of The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

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Review Date: 
January 5, 2012