Certain drugs currently used to treat diseases such as heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia have the potential to be effective in treatment of cancer, new research has found.
“We identified a dozen or so drugs that reactivate tumour suppressor genes through an epigenetic mechanism that was never observed before,” said study first author Noel Raynal, professor at the University of Montreal in Canada.
“Epigenetic mechanisms control gene expression. They are highly deregulated in cancer cells. The mechanism that we discovered controls gene expression by targeting intracellular calcium levels,” he explained.
The findings were published in the journal Cancer Research.
All the identified drugs are US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved.
“Since these drugs’ safety and efficacy in humans are already known and proven, they may readily go through clinical validation and be made available to patients more quickly,” Raynal said.
The researchers screened more than 1,100 FDA-approved drugs and from this number, they chose the 14 most promising drugs, which were detected using a cellular model created in the laboratory of Jean-Pierre Issa, professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, US.
Among the drugs selected for validation in various types of cancer cells were cardiac glycosides and antibiotics, whose epigenetic effects were previously unknown.
“All our drug candidates had in common their ability to act on the calcium channel and activate an enzyme essential for the anti-cancer effect,” Raynal said.
The researchers believe that the findings represent a new hope for children with solid tumours or recurrent of refractory leukemia who are facing a therapeutic dead end.