New research has found that a drug commonly used to treat a broad range of fungal infections, including skin and nail infections, has a lot of potential as a new cancer treatment.
Itraconazole, a generic anti-fungal agent that costs relatively less, shows some evidence of efficacy in metastatic prostate cancer -- which would make it an attractive proposition given the high costs associated with cancer treatments such as arbiraterone, said Pan Pantziarka, member of the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project that researched the potential of the drug.
The ReDO project is an international collaboration of anticancer researchers that seeks to repurpose well-known and well-characterised non-cancer drugs for new uses in oncology. "Itraconazole shows potential in a number of areas with high unmet patient needs, particularly in non-small cell lung cancer and possibly in some rarer malignancies," Pantziarka pointed out.
The low cost of itraconazole could make it an attractive cancer treatment in low and middle income countries.
But there are a few roadblocks that must be addressed before this anti-fungal medication can reach the anti-cancer market, the researchers noted. "Our intention in collecting data on re-purposed drugs is to do more than merely bringing it to the attention of the medical community," study Dr. Lydie Meheus from the Anticancer Fund, Belgium. "It is rather obvious that the pharma industry is not interested in taking the driver's seat when we are dealing with commercially neglected drugs. Consequently we are currently in a catch-22 situation, since only the 'owners' of a market authorisation can apply for a new indication!" Meheus said.
But according to leaders of the ReDO project, these re-purposed anticancer drugs such as antifungals and painkillers may represent the future of cancer drug research. The researchers hope that increased awareness will bring these medications out of the medicine cabinet - and possibly into cancer care.
The study was published in the journal ecancermedicalscience