Drug repurposing against COVID-19: Focus on anticancer agents

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Background: The very limited time allowed to face the COVID-19 pandemic poses a pressing challenge to find proper therapeutic approaches. However, synthesis and full investigation from preclinical studies to phase III trials of new medications is a time-consuming procedure, and not viable in a global emergency, such as the one we are facing. Main Body: Drug repurposing/repositioning, a strategy effectively employed in cancer treatment, can represent a valid alternative. Most drugs considered for repurposing/repositioning in the therapy of the COVID-19 outbreak are commercially available and their dosage and toxicity in humans is well known, due to years (or even decades) of clinical use. This can allow their fast-track evaluation in phase II-III clinical trials, or even within straightforward compassionate use. Several drugs being re-considered for COVID-19 therapy are or have been used in cancer therapy. Indeed, virus-infected cells are pushed to enhance the synthesis of nucleic acids, protein and lipid synthesis and boost their energy metabolism, in order to comply to the "viral program". Indeed, the same features are seen in cancer cells, making it likely that drugs interfering with specific cancer cell pathways may be effective as well in defeating viral replication. Short Conclusion: To our knowledge, cancer drugs potentially suitable for facing SARS-CoV-2 infection have not been carefully reviewed. We present here a comprehensive analysis of available information on potential candidate cancer drugs that can be repurposed for the treatment of COIVD-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number86
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 12 2020


  • Anticancer drugs
  • BCG
  • Drug repurposing
  • Health emergencies
  • Immune response
  • Viral pneumonia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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