Researchers at the University of Auckland have found that new combinations and formulations of older drugs show promise for treating bowel cancer.
According to a team of scientists at the University of Auckland, the use of old drugs in new combinations is showing potential in the treatment of bowel cancer.
“Although there have been advances in treatments for this disease in recent years, the development of new drugs is expensive and time-consuming,” said lead researcher Professor Peter Shepherd. “As a possible solution to this problem, our group has been investigating whether using old drugs in new ways might provide a faster and cheaper way to treat this disease.”
The researchers looked at several cancer drugs that would soon lose their patent protection. In their laboratory tests, the scientists found that the combination of two of these drugs significantly increased the overall effectiveness in treating bowel or colorectal cancer.
The foundation for this study, according to Shepherd, was laid by advances in our understanding of how cancer works.
“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 development of small blood vessels and proteins called BRAF and beta-catenin. The research group identified existing drugs that target these and investigated the possibility that combining them could have powerful anticancer effects.”
Two older drugs have shown considerable promise in studies conducted at the University of Auckland. One of them is axitinib, an anticancer drug. The other is pyrvinium, a low-cost drug created in the 1960s that researchers believe could be modified for use in treating cancer. In one set of tests, the researchers found that combining axitinib with another older BRAF-targeted drug, vemurafenib, significantly increased its effectiveness. Axitinib works by reducing the growth of small blood vessels.
Both drugs are used in other contexts to treat other cancers and will soon be off-patent, so the cost of using them in treatment will come down a lot, says Shepherd.
In a second set of studies, the group found evidence that pyrvinium, which targets beta-catenin, may also increase the effectiveness of vemurafenib.
The Doctor. Khanh Tran, who carried out most of the experiments, says: “This work suggests that existing drugs can be repurposed to treat this type of cancer, which could significantly reduce the cost of this therapy.”
Tran continues, “Because the drugs we use are already in use for other purposes, it makes it much easier to develop clinical trials to see how the findings from our studies actually translate into better outcomes for patients with this disease.”
Next, researchers are planning a randomized, controlled clinical trial.
Reference: “Response to BRAF-targeted therapy is enhanced by co-targeted VEGFRs or WNT/β-Catenin signaling in BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer models” by Khanh B. Tran, Sharada V. Kolekar, Qian Wang, Jen-Hsing Shih , Christina M. Buchanan, Sanjeev Deva and Peter R. Shepherd, October 5, 2022, Molecular Cancer Therapy🇧🇷
The HRC provided $1.2 million over three years for this research and the Gut Cancer Foundation supported this with an additional $150,000.