“Repurposing” off-patent drugs offers big hopes of new treatments

Towards the end of 2014 a 66-year-old British man named Alistair had a seizure. A scan revealed shocking news. He had an inoperable brain tumour—a glioblastoma—that was likely to kill him in a few years. Soon afterwards, he read a newspaper article suggesting that a cocktail of cheap, everyday drugs, chosen for their anti-cancer effects, had helped a patient with the same disease. His doctors were unimpressed but said: “We can’t stop you.”

Four years on Alistair is still taking this drug regimen alongside the “standard-of-care” treatment. The drug cocktail is prescribed by Care Oncology, a private clinic in London, which recommends a statin (a cholesterol-lowering drug), metformin (used to treat type-2 diabetes), doxycycline (an antibiotic) and mebendazole (an anti-worming agent). These may sound radical, but are actually safe, cheap, generic medicines with evidence of some anti-cancer effects. Nonetheless, their labels do not say they treat glioblastoma—nor any other cancer for that matter.

Read the full article about Care Oncology at The Economist