Multitasking Drugs

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Science  13 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6031, pp. 768
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6031.768-a

The escalating cost of developing new drugs has reinvigorated interest in “drug repositioning,” the idea that a drug with a good track record for clinical safety and efficacy in treating one disease might have broader clinical applications, some of which would not easily be predicted from the drug's mechanism of action. This concept is illustrated by two recent studies that propose that drugs developed for cardiovascular disease might offer beneficial effects in the setting of prostate cancer.

Farwell et al. suggest that statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) merit serious consideration as a possible preventive strategy for prostate cancer. Building on earlier work on this topic, they found in a study of medical files of over 55,000 men that those who had been prescribed statins were 31% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those who had been prescribed another type of medication (antihypertensives). In independent work, Platz et al. screened for agents that inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells and found that one of the most effective was digoxin, a drug used to treat heart failure and arrhythmia. A complementary epidemiological analysis of about 48,000 men revealed that digoxin use was associated with a 25% lower risk of prostate cancer, leading the authors to suggest that this drug be further studied as a possible therapeutic for the disease.

J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 103, 1 (2011); Cancer Discovery 1, OF66 (2011).

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