There’s a big push by some in the cancer research community to look at old drugs to see if they’ve got some anti-cancer activities. It makes a huge amount of sense to do this as it short circuits all of the phase I trials to test a drug’s toxicity, often these drugs are cheap generics and there’s many years of data on pharmacokinetics and side effects and so on. It means that in a best case scenario you can cut out years of preliminary work. Some of the drugs, like the anti-diabetic drug Metformin or plain old Aspirin also have evidence of anti-cancer effects in the population rather than just from test-tube experiments or computer simulations. And the good news is that the list of such drugs is growing longer by the day, and the evidence continues to mount up that some of the best candidates will enter use soon either as support to existing treatments or, in some cases, as part of new protocols to prevent recurrence of disease after treatment.
One of the more surprising drugs in Mebendazole, an old drug that has been around for a long time as a treatment for parasites like tape-worms. Mebendazole, which is available over the counter in any case, has got a surprising amount of evidence in its favour as an anti-tumour drug. This evidence comes from modelling the molecular profile of the drug to see how it fits with particular cancer pathways, from experiments in test tubes and in animal testing using human tumours. As pre-clinical evidence goes, that’s pretty much the works.