August 19th, 2011
From the Wall Street Journal:
In a bit of high-tech recycling, researchers have developed an innovative way to identify already-approved drugs that may work against diseases they weren’t designed to combat.
The scientists have also demonstrated how a couple of such repurposed drugs may have benefits in treating two conditions, inflammatory bowel disease and lung cancer.
The findings, published in two papers Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, come as drug companies and the National Institutes of Health are putting greater emphasis on so-called drug repositioning as a way of lowering the costs of drug development and getting therapies to patients more quickly.
There are several examples of medications being developed for one condition and then found to have efficacy in another. Viagra was tested in a cardiac trial and was found to be useful against erectile dysfunction. But rather than rely on such serendipitous discoveries, researchers would like a fast, inexpensive way of identifying potential hits.
Atul Butte, an associate professor of systems medicine in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, who led the researchers, said they created a computer program he likened to an online dating service, though one that operates on the principle that “opposites attract.”
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