Authors: Emily Brown, Future Science Group
Continuing on the theme of drug repurposing following the recent news regarding the antirheumatic auranofin in ovarian cancer, this week a study published in ecancermedicalscience has indicated that the common painkiller diclofenac has notable anticancer properties.
The widely used NSAID diclofenac was investigated as part of the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project – an international collaboration that evaluates existing noncancer drugs for potential anticancer activity. The agent is cheap and accessible, and is currently used to treat pain in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, fever, acute gout and following surgical procedures.
NSAIDs such as aspirin continue to show promise in the cancer prevention setting and evidence suggesting that they may have some use in the treatment of cancer has begun to emerge. Such evidence suggests that the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be improved if they are delivered in combination with diclofenac. Upon reviewing the literature on the matter, the ReDO team believe that there is enough evidence to begin clinical trials on the use of diclofenac in cancer treatment.
“It’s still somewhat surprising that there is still so much we don’t understand about how many of the standard drugs we use every day, like diclofenac, work,” commented study author Pan Pantziarka, member of the ReDO project and the Anticancer Fund. “But the more we learn, the more we can see that these drugs are multitargeted agents with interesting and useful effects on multiple pathways of interest in oncology.”
Taking into account the multiple mechanisms of action of diclofenac, especially with regard to its impact on angiogenesis and the immune system, the team believe that the painkiller could have notable potential for the treatment of cancer.
The ReDo group suggest that use of diclofenac could assist in the reducing the risk of distant metastases developing following surgery. As Pantziarka commented, this would be of great impact in the management of the disease as: “After all, it’s metastatic disease that most often kills patients, not the original primary disease.”
Looking forward, Pantziarka concluded: “It may also be that diclofenac may have actions which synergize with the latest generation of checkpoint inhibitors – the combination of the latest drugs in the anticancer armoury with some of the oldest is especially exciting.”
You can read further on the ReDO project in this editorial article from Future Oncology authored by Pan Pantziarka and colleagues: Repurposing drugs in your medicine cabinet: untapped opportunities for cancer therapy?