Drug repurposing in review

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Published: 5 Aug 2016
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Dr Farhat Khanim – University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Dr Khanim speaks with ecancertv at the 2016 BACR and ECMC Joint Meeting about drug repurposing topics discussed at the conference, from ongoing trials to patient advocacy.

She also describes her work with the ECMC UK therapeutic cancer prevention network, a professional group whose focus lies in advocacy and research towards the licencing of chemopreventative medicine.


BACR & ECMC: Therapeutic interventions for cancer prevention

Drug repurposing in review

Dr Farhat Khanim – University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

I’m going to talk about drug repurposing, its potential not just in the arena of cancer treatment but also in the arena of cancer prevention. As a scientist the last few, I would say ten to thirteen, years I’ve been working on drug repurposing and we’ve become very familiar with the challenges with both doing it in the laboratory setting but also translating that into the clinical setting - the social aspects of dealing with people’s perceptions of repurposing and also the legislative barriers that we have regarding trying to get repurposed drugs into routine clinical use.

What areas are catching your eye at BACR 2016?

I think what is impressing me is the breadth of the type of work that is happening. There’s obviously a focus on aspirin and metformin because I think the amount of data there is almost unequivocal. The evidence is so strong that it almost makes sense that we shouldn’t not consider aspirin and metformin seriously. I think the other aspect which I’m finding fascinating is the social aspects of doing the kinds of trials using repurposed agents for prevention. So that’s the social aspects of the clinicians’ perceptions of prevention, the patients’ perceptions of prevention and also the regulatory perceptions of prevention and repurposing. We ourselves are aware of some of those challenges, we’ve hit some of them ourselves, but what’s come to light in the presentations is there is a real significant amount of work we need to do on changing people’s perceptions of the concept of cancer prevention as well as using repurposed agents and also nutraceuticals and lifestyle changes.

Could you please tell us about the ECMC UKTCPN?

I’m part of what is called the ECMC UK Therapeutic Cancer Prevention Network. It’s a national network of researchers and clinicians and our goal, really, is to bring cancer prevention into the mainstay arena. That means tackling a lot of the issues that have been raised at this conference. So that means writing papers, forming collaborations to push ahead some of the studies that are taking place. Also, for example, we had the Off-Patent Drugs Bill which didn’t make it through parliament but then has now been incorporated into the Saatchi Bill. So we’ve been doing a lot of advocacy work and trying to promote and support that bill going through because one of the challenges we face is the legislation around getting drugs which are repurposed drugs licensed for either chemoprevention or for new use is actually very difficult. We really need to get the government on board in supporting the activities that we’re doing.

Any final thoughts?

What is fairly clear is that if we look at the statistics epidemiologically, that almost 40% of cancers can be prevented. That’s the take home message we really need to get out into the community. What we struggle with is that there are sometimes conflicting reports about data with respect to whether or not it does reduce your risk or increases your risk etc. I think we have to have some clarity and I think as a collective we need to be sending out a message, both to our patients, to our GP practitioners, to the legislative bodies about a clear message for a given agent for a given treatment. The only way we can do that is to form these collaboratives and collectives that work together and get that message across.