Anti-Cancer Activity Agents Identified Through Drug Screening

Published: 06 January 2012

By Wai Lang Chu

A recent study that appears in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) has described findings that indicate existing drugs could be implemented into clinical trials to assess how effective the treatment would be.

The drugs in question have already been approved for clinical use across a variety of therapeutic categories and researchers believe they could provide an efficacy that could prove effective against thyroid cancer.

Pharmaceuticals that have undergone the long and expensive process have proved a promising starting point in determining how effective these chemical agents are in modulating other diseases and conditions. This current study made significant use of the newly assembled National Institutes of Health (NIH) Chemical Genomic Center’s pharmaceutical collection.

Based in Rockville, Maryland in the United States, the collection currently houses 2,816 approved drugs and bioactive compounds. Researchers sought to identify agents with an anti-cancer effect in thyroid cancer cell lines.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to use such a large collection of clinical drugs to test anti-proliferative effect in cancer cells,” said Electron Kebebew, MD, of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD and lead author of the study.

“The compounds found to have potent activity in our screen represent possible opportunities to repurpose these drugs for the treatment of patients with aggressive recurrent or metastatic thyroid cancer.”

The study began with researchers utilizing a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) method to assess the effect of 2,816 clinically approved pharmaceuticals on thyroid cancer cells. qHTS is a titration-based screening technique where compounds are screened at a number of concentrations. By using this technique, the team discovered multiple agents spanning varied therapeutic categories and mechanisms of action that had an anti-cancer effect.

“Clinicians can more readily translate these findings into therapy when the drug characteristics are well-known. The drugs can then be used in developing clinical trials or in some cases for off-label use,” said Kebebew. “Furthermore, qHTS could be used for identifying therapeutics not only for cancer, but for many other diseases.”

Other researchers working on the study include Lisa Zhang, Mei He and Naris Nilubol of the National Cancer Institute and Yaqin Zhang and Min Shen of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, MD.

The article, “Quantitative high-throughput drug screening identifies novel classes of drugs with anticancer activity in thyroid cancer cells: Opportunities for repurposing” appears in the March 2012 issue of JCEM.

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