Drug repurposing is a strategy which aims at “teaching an old drug new tricks”, i.e. developing an already marketed drug for new therapeutic purposes, like for instance in oncology/hematology. The development-path can thus be shortened and costs saved, because the pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and toxicity profiles of these drugs have already been established, and they can therefore rapidly be  progressed into phases II and III, albeit in a different indication than the original one (see Figure 2). 

Fig. 2

Fig. 2 Semi-automated literature-based identification process of repurposing drug candidates in oncology. Cited in [1].

Thanks to the availability of both, big data in cancer research and computational resources, non-oncology drugs can rapidly

be screened for their potency in cancer indications. The compound in question can be tested for its effect on the viability of almost 600 human cancer cell lines of diverse tumor types. 

Even if a drug is close to patent expiry or has already outlived its patent, there are means to renew its market exclusivity. Cases in point are: An  application-patent, derivatization of the raw material  like encapsulation in liposomes or pegylation, and/or an additional pediatric indication. The consequence would be to secure sufficient return on investment upon marketing the repurposed drug candidate, thus justifying the second-look, i.e. repurposing approach.  

  1. Pantziarka, P., et al., Repurposing drugs in oncology: From candidate selection to clinical adoption.Seminars in Cancer Biology, 2021. 68: p. 186-191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semcancer.2020.01.008 

2. Gonzalez-Fierro, A. and A. Dueñas-González, Drug repurposing for cancer therapy, easier said than done. 
Seminars in Cancer Biology, 2021. 68: p. 123-131.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semcancer.2019.12.012