Sleepy orphan finds new home in cancer treatment

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and their colleagues have demonstrated that an inexpensive "orphan drug" previously tested for treating sleep disorders is also a potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth. The study involved high-throughput robotic screening that focused on a specific gene associated with cancer to identify compounds in a database that can inhibit the protein expressed by the gene. The compound targets the products of the "Myc" gene which is over-active in brain, breast, lung, ovary and liver cancers. The same approach opens up a new route to finding drugs to fight cancer with the added advantage of identifying orphan drugs that have already gone through initial safety testing.