Submit Manuscript  

Article Details

Targeting Cancer Stem Cells with Repurposed Drugs to Improve Current Therapies

[ Vol. 16 , Issue. 2 ]


Dunne Fong*, Chase T. Christensen and Marion M. Chan   Pages 136 - 160 ( 25 )


Background: Cancer is a multistep process involving genetic and epigenetic changes in the somatic genome. Genetic mutations as well as environmental factors lead to the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer. Metastasis allows cancer cells to spread via circulatory and lymphatic systems; secondary tumorigenesis typically leads to a fatal outcome. Recent experimental evidence suggests that Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) play a pivotal role in tumor progression. A tumor is heterogeneous and composed of different cell types. CSCs are a subpopulation of tumor cells possessing abilities to self-renew and differentiate.

Objective: The aim of this study was to present repurposed drugs, and potential candidates, that can serve as anticancer medications intended to target resistant cancer cells, i.e. CSCs.

Methods: Research publications, FDA filings, and patents have been reviewed for repurposed drugs or drug combinations that can act to improve cancer treatment and care.

Results: Drugs that act against CSCs include ones approved for treatment of diabetes (metformin & thiazolidinediones), parasitic diseases (chloroquine, niclosamide, mebendazole & pyrvinium), psychotic disorders (thioridazine, clomipramine & phenothiazines), alcoholism (disulfiram), lipid disorder (statins), inflammatory diseases (tranilast, auranofin, acetaminophen & celecoxib), antibiotics (azithromycin), and other disorders. Current research findings advocate the existence of beneficial effects by combining these repurposed drugs, and also through their complementary use with conventional cancer therapies.

Conclusion: Repurposing FDA-approved medications towards cancer care, by targeting the resistant CSCs, will allow for a quicker, cheaper development and approval process. A larger drug library available to physicians will allow for increased efficacy during both first-line and recurrent cancer treatments.


Cancer stem cells, repurposed drugs, combination therapy, metformin, niclosamide, chloroquine, thioridazine.


Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ 08854, Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, NJ 08854, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University, 3400 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140

Read Full-Text article