Drug development is an expensive and slow process. It can take millions of dollars and upwards of 10-15 years for a new cancer drug to get to patients. Which is why a team of researchers from Stanford (Marina Sirota, Joel Dudley, and Atul Butte) created a computer program that identifies already-approved drugs that may work against diseases they weren’t designed to combat.
How does it work? The computer program assesses how a disease affects cells at the genetic level and then searches the National Institute of Health’s databases for drugs that have the opposite effect. The thinking being that the drug could be an effective treatment.
In a study that focused on 100 diseases and 164 existing drugs, the computer program found two drugs with potential: an epilepsy drug that could work on inflamatory bowel disease and an ulcer drug that could be used to treat lung cancer. The follow-up animal model testing results were encouraging; they showed reduced bowl-disease symptoms and slow lung cancer tumor growth.
LLS is also on the cutting edge of this newer approach to drug discovery and engineering. Aaron Schimmer, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Ph.D., of the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, Canada is one researcher currently receiving funding for a repurposing project. In less than one year, he reformulated a cream used to treat toe fungus into an oral medication for use in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
It sounds strange, but it’s true.
Dr. Schimmer found that a compound in the cream was effective in fighting this difficult-to-treat form of leukemia. His team then advanced this new oral medication into a phase I clinical trial, fully one-to-two years faster than it usually takes to get a new drug through safety testing and other FDA-required pre-clinical steps. As of today, the trial is open to patients at two different clinical sites, and LLS has contracted with a pharmaceutical company to further develop this promising drug. Initial results suggest that the new drug may have an even broader anti-cancer application.
Thanks to your support, LLS is also leading the way in drug repurposing and accelerating the discovery of life-saving treatments for patients.
To learn more about what LLS is doing to help get new treatments to patients faster, visit http://www.lls.org/#/aboutlls/researchsuccesses/.