MAR 25, 2018 4:14 PM PDT

'Drug Re-purposing' Shows Promising Treatment for Mesothelioma

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer that occurs in the outer linings of the internal organs, particularly the lungs.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 2,500 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The life expectancy of those affected by mesothelioma is poor as there is no cure. The stage of mesothelioma, the origin of the cancer, location of the tumor, and age of patient along with overall health factors in the survival rate. However, people who have worked with or been exposed to asbestos have had the highest incidences of developing mesothelioma. The exposure to asbestos can bring symptoms that may take up to 20 to 50 years to surface for an affected individual.

Despite the declining incidences of mineral asbestos associated with malignant mesothelioma , this particular cancer continues to rise in many economically-disadvantaged countries where asbestos regulation laws are not strict and some places nonexistent. While there are some new therapeutic strategies being planned, a cure for mesothelioma does not exist.

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However, some researchers believe using currently developed drugs to treat asbestos cancer might be the key for the cure. One existing drug that has been repurposed and shows a promising treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma is called pyrvinium pamoate or known better as the “parasite drug” for its treatment of pinworm parasite infections., “Pyrvinium pamoate is able to affect important features of mesothelioma aggressiveness, suggesting that the repurposing of this drug for mesothelioma treatment could represent a new promising therapeutic approach,” says lead researcher Dr. Antonio Giordano at the Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine at Temple University.

Repurposing a drug means to use known drug treatments for new indications, such in this case mesothelioma. The advantage of drug repurposing is the time and testing needed to bring treatment to patients. Repurposing drugs are fairly faster than a drug that is currently being developed; this makes pyrvinium pamoate more available to mesothelioma patients that need them. In fact, an article published in the European Respiratory Review explains that investigators at France’s Aix-Marseille University agree that drug repurposing for the treatment of mesothelioma is “a breath of fresh air”.

“Drug repurposing appears as an attractive strategy for drug development in malignant pleural mesothelioma, since the known pharmacology and safety profile based on previous approvals of repurposed drugs allows for faster time-to-market for patients and lower treatment cost,” writes lead researcher Arnaud Boyer.

Furthermore, eleven classes of known drugs have been identified to have the efficacy to treat mesothelioma by Boyer and his team. Most of these identified drugs have been through tests for evaluation and only a half of these drugs moved on to the next step of animal testing with three being the subject of clinical trials. Boyer and team hope there is more strategic planning to move on and test these existing drugs in hopes of treating malignant mesothelioma.

Studies for this discovery were published in the Journal of Cell Physiology.

Sources: Mesothelioma, Asbestos

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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