Study: New approach helps identify possible novel uses for existing drugs
Genetics research highlights thousands of possible drug-disease connections
MARSHFIELD — Finding new uses for existing drugs has become increasingly important for treating diseases, and a Marshfield Clinic-led research team has proven a new way to speed up the process, according to a study published in Nature Biotechnology.
Drug repurposing is the process of discovering new uses for existing drugs. The process is becoming increasingly important in drug development as success rates for new drugs in clinical trials decrease and costs increase. Critical to drug repurposing is initially identifying candidate drug-disease relationships.
Using a type of genetic study called a phenomewide association study, researchers identified thousands of potential disease and drug relationships. This could serve as an early clue when looking for drugs that may effectively treat diseases for which they are not currently prescribed.
“This is a proof of principle study demonstrating phenomewide association data may be rapidly applied to developing or repurposing existing drugs,” said Scott Hebbring, Ph.D., principal investigator and research scientist at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation’s Center for Human Genetics. “Unlike other genetic-based approaches, a phenomewide association study allows us to look at thousands of diseases at once rather than just one disease at a time.”
A team of researchers using the phenomewide approach identified more than 14,800 examples of where a drug might be used to treat an unrelated disease. They did this by cross-referencing drug-disease pairs identified by phenomewide data with existing medical literature to find examples where a disease and drug were mentioned in the same article.
“While we didn’t provide context for these relationships, we hope these novel findings offer researchers clues that allow them to prioritize which potential relationships to study first,” Hebbring said. “That, in turn, could help us more quickly find new uses for current drugs.”
The team also found more than 38,000 novel drug-disease relationships not yet studied, according to the medical literature. These results suggest phenomewide association study data may bring to light many additional diseases that may be treated with already developed drugs.
To read the full study, go to Nature Biotechnology.