Drug repositioning for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number991842
Journal / PublicationFrontiers in Genetics
Online published28 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022



Esophageal cancer (EC) remains a significant challenge globally, having the 8th highest incidence and 6th highest mortality worldwide. Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is the most common form of EC in Asia. Crucially, more than 90% of EC cases in China are ESCC. The high mortality rate of EC is likely due to the limited number of effective therapeutic options. To increase patient survival, novel therapeutic strategies for EC patients must be devised. Unfortunately, the development of novel drugs also presents its own significant challenges as most novel drugs do not make it to market due to lack of efficacy or safety concerns. A more time and cost-effective strategy is to identify existing drugs, that have already been approved for treatment of other diseases, which can be repurposed to treat EC patients, with drug repositioning. This can be achieved by comparing the gene expression profiles of disease-states with the effect on gene-expression by a given drug. In our analysis, we used previously published microarray data and identified 167 differentially expressed genes (DEGs). Using weighted key driver analysis, 39 key driver genes were then identified. These driver genes were then used in Overlap Analysis and Network Analysis in Pharmomics. By extracting drugs common to both analyses, 24 drugs are predicted to demonstrate therapeutic effect in EC patients. Several of which have already been shown to demonstrate a therapeutic effect in EC, most notably Doxorubicin, which is commonly used to treat EC patients, and Ixazomib, which was recently shown to induce apoptosis and supress growth of EC cell lines. Additionally, our analysis predicts multiple psychiatric drugs, including Venlafaxine, as repositioned drugs. This is in line with recent research which suggests that psychiatric drugs should be investigated for use in gastrointestinal cancers such as EC. Our study shows that a drug repositioning approach is a feasible strategy for identifying novel ESCC therapies and can also improve the understanding of the mechanisms underlying the drug targets.

Research Area(s)

  • drug repositioning, drug repurposing, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, ESCC treatment, cancer biology

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