Top Off-Label Drugs for Cancer Patients

For cancer patients and their loved ones, treatment regimens can be a double-edged sword. As the drugs do their job of fighting cancer, they are often accompanied by debilitating side effects. Sometimes, for no clear reason, medicines that were effective all of a sudden stop working. Cancer patients are often told to hold tight; that a new, less harmful treatment option might be just around the corner. The reality of the situation is that it can take years for a new drug to move from the laboratory to your neighborhood pharmacy. But what if alternative meds were readily available? What if they had already been tested and deemed safe for use? This is where drug repurposing comes in. Repurposing is the practice of taking compounds that have been approved for one illness and using them to treat something else. And it is steadily gaining traction as a smarter, cheaper, safer way to treat disease or infection, including cancer.


What is Off-Label Drug use for Cancer 

In oncology, repurposing is not a new idea. In fact, the first chemotherapy drugs originally had an entirely different purpose: they were repurposed from chemical weapons. When treating the victims of “mustard gas”, doctors realized the same toxins that caused blistering might actually have tumor-reducing power and began to convert the toxic compound into a therapeutic one. Many of the most successful cases of drug repurposing have been equally as serendipitous – discovered more by chance than intent. With so many unrelated diseases sharing common molecular characteristics, it stands to reason that there would be huge areas of overlap when it comes to treatment. 


How are Off-Label Drugs Used in Oncology? 

In terms of chemotherapy, there are two main categories of off-label drugs:

1. Chemotherapy Replacement Options

Drugs used in other areas, for example, anti-infectives or treatments for common diseases, and adapting them as a less toxic alternative to chemotherapy. As so many cancer patients know firsthand, chemotherapy’s power to treat cancer can come with severe side effects. So far, drug designers have been unable to develop a chemotherapy drug that will only kill cancer cells and leave normal cells untouched. Thus, oncologists are always on the lookout for drugs with fewer side effects that can be used to treat cancer as a chronic disease or even prevent it. Several drugs designed to treat many indications have already been introduced into cancer therapy, with hundreds more reported to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in cultures. 


2. Chemotherapy Enhancement Options

The second category of off-label drugs is being used in conjunction with chemotherapeutics in order to enhance the treatment or control its side effects. For example, for patients with cardiac problems, Beta blocker co-treatment with anthracyclines can significantly reduce chemotherapy cardiotoxicity and preserve left ventricle function. A variety of repurposed drugs are being introduced to help curb nausea, painful swelling, blistering, and hair loss that can result from chemotherapy treatment. 


Examples of Off-Label Drugs for Cancer Treatment

What common drugs are used off-label?  Here is a general list of drugs commonly prescribed off label for oncology patients:

  • Metformin is usually used for diabetes. In the mid-2000s, researchers found that patients taking this drug had a significantly lowered risk for breast cancer.
  • Celebrex is a popular osteoarthritis drug. Celebrex has also been shown to decrease the risk of additional polyp formation in people who’ve had colon cancer in the past.
  • ATRA – All-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) has historically been used to treat severe acne. But researchers found that when ATRA is combined with chemotherapy, the drug combination significantly decreases the chance of relapse among leukemia patients in remission.
  • Low Dose Naltrexone originally used to help narcotic dependents who have stopped taking narcotics to stay drug-free. LDN is showing promising results for people with primary cancer of the bladder, breast, liver, lung, lymph nodes, colon and rectum
  • Vermox (mebendazole polymorph C) – Used to treat worm infestation in humans, has antitumor properties. It inhibits cancer cells’ growth, migrations, and metastatic formation of adrenocortical carcinoma.
  • Dipyridamole – The original purpose of Dipyridamole is to prevent the formation of blood clots following a heart valve replacement. Today, it serves as an effective treatment for reducing tumor size, metastasis, progression, and inflammation in cancer patients.
  • Statins – Some 40 million Americans take statins to lower their cholesterol. Now, a growing body of evidence suggests these drugs may also protect against colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and several other cancers.
  • Ivermectin tablets are approved by the FDA to treat people with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. Ivermectin has powerful antitumor effects, including the inhibition of proliferation, metastasis, and angiogenic activity, in a variety of cancer cells.


Jane McLelland: How to Starve Cancer

Jane McLelland is a physiotherapist specializing in Neurology and Orthopedics, a best-selling author, and a two-time cancer survivor. When she was given a terminal diagnosis and weeks to live, she used her medical knowledge and extensive research to develop the use of supplements and old drugs and miraculously survived. Since her recovery, Jane has become a staunch supporter and fierce advocate of off-label drugs for cancer therapy. She has been instrumental in helping to change legislation for “off patient” and “off label” drugs. Her international bestseller, “How To Starve Cancer,” is recommended reading for anyone who would like to learn more about the incredible, untapped potential of drug repurposing. 


Warnings and Limitations

Without a doubt, drug repurposing has greatly contributed to both increased survival rates and an easing of the effects of chemotherapy on cancer patients. Off label drugs use gives physicians the freedom to lawfully prescribe approved drugs to apply new therapeutic options based on the latest available scientific data and proper medical practice. However, mixing medications or repurposing them should never be undertaken without the proper guidance and monitoring by your doctor or oncologist. 


Get an Individualized Protocol

Heal Navigator makes it easy for cancer patients to speak directly with an oncologist who can help them understand how off-label drugs may benefit their treatment. 

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