The potential of an old drug to fight cancer

Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the world, and finding new treatments stays an expensive and time-consuming challenge. Drug repositioning, i.e. identifying new uses of current drugs, may offer certain advantages in terms of cost and time over developing completely novel drugs.


Clofazimine, a promising molecule for breast cancer

Clofazimine has been used to treat leprosy for fifty years. Recent research from the team of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev has revealed the potential of this old medication to treat an aggressive breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer. Their pre-clinical tests showed that clofazimine works by inhibiting a signaling pathway activated in many cancers, the Wnt pathway.


A potential effect on some other cancers

Driven by this first promising step, researchers of Prof. Vladimir Katanaev laboratory tested the impact of clofazimine on four other deadly cancers, where the Wnt signaling pathway is also aberrantly activated. As described in their recent article in Frontiers in Oncology, scientists discovered that this molecule reduces cancer cell growth and survival in some, but not all other cancer cell lines (see Figure below). Clofazimine appeared to have strong effects on cancer cell lines, where Wnt signaling was more strongly overactivated.


Clofazimine decreases cell growth in some cancer cell lines of colorectal, liver, ovarian and brain tumors, with higher decreases in cell lines where the Wnt signaling pathway is more strongly overactivated.


What’s next?

This work lays the ground for continued repositioning of clofazimine against a broad range of Wnt-dependent cancers and creates the basis for patient stratification in eventual clinical trials. To find a molecule targeting even more specifically this pathway, the research team is now planning to discover the exact molecular mechanisms by which clofazimine acts on cancer cells.




January 26, 2021