Cancer Drugs Offer New Hope for Treating Crohn's Disease and Sarcoidosis

Cancer Drugs Offer New Hope

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have found two drugs commonly used to fight cancer could be used in the treatment of two painful inflammatory diseases: Crohn's disease and sarcoidosis.

A recent study of the gene NOD2 demonstrates that the gene plays a key role in both diseases. The research team identified two existing FDA-approved drugs that inhibit NOD2 activity by targeting its binding partner—a protein called kinase RIP2.

Drugs that target kinase proteins have been among the most successful pharmacologic cancer treatments. Two of these medications, erlotinib and gefitinib—commonly used to inhibit the growth of lung and brain tumors—also showed potency against RIP2 and were found to diminish the effects of NOD2 hyperactivation.

Regulatory approval is a long and arduous process on a treatment's journey from the lab to clinical use. However, erlotinib and gefitinib have already earned FDA approval, which opens a door for treatment that, with appropriate preclinical testing for this new function, could be more rapidly translated into clinical treatment.

More testing is needed to confirm that these drugs can be used as safe and effective treatments for Crohn's and sarcoidosis, says Derek Abbott, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at the School of Medicine and the study's senior author. "However, these studies also show that very basic biochemical research can lead to unexpected findings that could have clinical impact." Abbott's team, including study first author Justine Tigno-Aranjuez, PhD, has now partnered with the university's Technology Transfer Office and pharmaceutical companies to further test the clinical potential of their findings.