1 Molecular Disease Biology, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Herlev Hospital3 Department of Clinical Medicine, Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Molecular Disease Biology, Department of Veterinary Disease Biology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet5 Department of Clinical Medicine, Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Københavns Universitet
a novel strategy in drug development
Cancer is a leading cause of mortality worldwide and matters are only set to worsen as its incidence continues to rise. Traditional approaches to combat cancer include improved prevention, early diagnosis, optimized surgery, development of novel drugs, and honing regimens of existing anti-cancer drugs. Although discovery and development of novel and effective anti-cancer drugs is a major research area, it is well known that oncology drug development is a lengthy process, extremely costly and with high attrition rates. Furthermore, those drugs that do make it through the drug development mill are often quite expensive, laden with severe side-effects and unfortunately, to date, have only demonstrated minimal increases in overall survival. Therefore, a strong interest has emerged to identify approved non-cancer drugs that possess anti-cancer activity, thus shortcutting the development process. This research strategy is commonly known as drug repurposing or drug repositioning and provides a faster path to the clinics. We have developed and implemented a modification of the standard drug repurposing strategy that we review here; rather than investigating target-promiscuous non-cancer drugs for possible anti-cancer activity, we focus on the discovery of novel cancer indications for already approved chemotherapeutic anti-cancer drugs. Clinical implementation of this strategy is normally commenced at clinical phase II trials and includes pre-treated patients. As the response rates to any non-standard chemotherapeutic drug will be relatively low in such a patient cohort it is a pre-requisite that such testing is based on predictive biomarkers. This review describes our strategy of biomarker-guided repurposing of chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer therapy, taking the repurposing of topoisomerase I (Top1) inhibitors and Top1 as a potential predictive biomarker as case in point.