(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – An approved, long-established anti-fungal drug might be eventually tested as a targeted anti-cancer drug, according to a team of US-based researchers. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “Evolutionarily Repurposed Networks Reveal the Well-Known Antifungal Drug Thiabendazole to Be a Novel Vascular Disrupting Agent,” which was published in the August issue of PLoS Biology.

Anti-cancer drugs that kill cancer cells by disrupting the generation of tumor vasculature, a process known as angiogenesis, are powerful tools for the oncologist. These drugs target blood vessels by inhibiting molecules such as the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

In previous studies, a systematic genetic analysis of genes from many different organisms revealed similarities between genes that maintain the structure of yeast cells and genes that maintain the structure of arteries and veins in humans. In this study, the investigators aimed to determine if this knowledge could be used to identify small molecules that could target tumors as angiogenesis inhibitors.

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“This insight led to the finding that thiabendazole, an orally available antifungal drug in clinical use for 40 years, also potently inhibits angiogenesis in animal models and in human cells,” the investigators wrote. “Thiabendazole reversibly disassembles newly established blood vessels, marking it as vascular disrupting agent (VDA) and thus as a potential complementary therapeutic for use in combination with current anti-angiogenic therapies.” The most important observation made in this study is thiabendazole slows tumor growth and decreases vascular density in sarcomas.

The investigators concluded that “an exploration of the evolutionary repurposing of gene networks has led directly to the identification of a potential new therapeutic application for an inexpensive drug that is already approved for clinical use in humans.”