A low-cost drug from the 1960s that could help treat colon cancer

Cancer cell disintegration illustration

Researchers believe that perfenum, a cheap drug produced in the 1960s, could be modified for use in treating cancer.

Researchers from the University of Auckland have discovered that new combinations and combinations of old medicines show promise for treating bowel cancer.

According to a team of University of Auckland scientists, using old drugs in new combinations shows potential in treating bowel cancer.

“While there have been advances in treatments for this disease in recent years, developing new medicines is costly and time-consuming,” says Professor Peter Shepherd, the principal investigator. “As a potential solution to this problem, our group is investigating whether using old drugs in new ways could provide a faster and cheaper way to treat this disease.”

The researchers looked at several cancer drugs that would soon lose patent protection. In laboratory tests, scientists discovered that combining two of these drugs significantly increased the overall effectiveness in treating bowel or colorectal cancer.

The foundation for this study was laid, according to Shepherd, by advances in our understanding of how crabs function.

“In recent years, research has led to a rapid increase in our understanding of how colorectal cancer develops. In particular, some subtypes of the disease depend on the growth of small blood vessels and on proteins called BRAF and beta-catenin. The research group identified existing drugs that target these drugs and investigated The potential for their combination to have powerful anti-cancer effects.”

Two older medicines have shown great promise in studies conducted at the University of Auckland. The first is axitinib, an anti-cancer drug. The other is perfenum, a low-cost threadworm drug created in the 1960s that researchers believe could be modified for use in treating cancer. In one set of tests, researchers discovered that combining axitinib with another older BRAF-targeting drug, vemurafenib, significantly increased its effectiveness. Axitinib works by reducing the growth of small blood vessels.

These two drugs are used in other contexts to treat other types of cancer and will soon be off-patent, so the cost of using them in treatment will drop dramatically, says Shepard.

In a second set of studies, the group found evidence that perfenum, which targets beta-catenin, can also increase the effectiveness of vemurafenib.

“This work suggests that existing drugs may be able to be repurposed to treat this type of cancer, which could significantly reduce the cost of such treatment,” says Dr Khan Tran, who conducted most of the trials.

Tran continues, “Because the drugs we used are already in use for other purposes, it makes it very easy to develop clinical trials to see how the results of our studies will actually translate into better outcomes for patients with this disease.”

Next, the researchers plan to conduct a randomized controlled clinical trial.

Reference: “Response to BRAF-targeted therapy is improved by co-targeting of VEGFRs or WNT/β-catenin in BRAF-mutated colorectal cancer models” by Khanh P. Tran, Sharada F. Kulekar, Qian Wang, Jin-Hsing Shih, Christina Buchanan, Sanjeev Deva and Peter R. Shepherd, Oct. 5, 2022, Molecular cancer therapies.
DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-21-0941

The Human Rights Council provided $1.2 million over three years for this research and the Bowel Cancer Foundation supported this with an additional $150,000.

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