april 28, 2022

Repurposed drugs: “3 key trends will drive market” – CMO

In March 2022, Ectin Research’s new Chief Medical Officer Dr. Austin Smith reflected on the rapid rise of repurposed drugs within oncology and the implications for MFA-370, Ectin Research’s new therapy for metastatic urothelial bladder cancer. In this follow-up he identifies three key trends which will drive continued intensive R&D into repurposed drugs such as MFA-370.

Trend 1: “Rising drug costs and budgetary pressure”

“Rising drug costs and budgetary pressure will make repurposed drugs increasingly attractive over the next five years. Recent success stories like Dexamethasone for Covid-19 will keep building credibility about how effective repurposing can be. Dexamethasone was approved in 2020 for Covid-19. It’s an inexpensive, commonly used steroid, and in trials, it cut deaths by about one-third in patients on ventilators. Immediately following approval, Dexamethasone became the standard of care in Intensive Care units around the world.”

Trend 2: “Increased combination and multifunctional therapies”

“We’ll see a lot more growth in adjunct combination therapies. Particularly in oncology, which will continue to be a vital sector for repurposed drugs. For example, checkpoint inhibitor therapies, a type of cancer immunotherapy that can block inhibitory checkpoints, restoring immune system function. We’re getting to learn more and more about these drugs every day. We’ll see a huge increase in multifunctional compounds.”

Trend 3: “Growing data from patient groups and forums”

“Patient advocacy and support groups have grown hugely in recent years, especially on Facebook. It’s a valuable channel for identifying serendipitous effects in trials and treatment. Many repurposed drugs come out of serendipity. Sildenafil (or Viagra) is the most famous example. During its phase III trial for heart disease, investigators noticed many patients not ‘remembering’ to return dispensed boxes for the pill count. Further investigation revelated its side effect. Facebook surveys have led to the discovery that hydrochlorothiazide (prescribed for high blood pressure) also reduces the recurrence of kidney stones. And that the SSRI Zoloft can have a positive treatment effect on psoriasis lesions. Increased computational power and search capabilities will make patient forums an increasingly popular channel for investigation.”

Dr Austin Smith is a Pharmacuetical Physician and Medical Oncologist, with a special interest in early phase drug development. A graduate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, he has occupied an extensive range of senior clinical and strategic positions within oncology.