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1.  Investigating drug repositioning opportunities in FDA drug labels through topic modeling 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13(Suppl 15):S6.
Drug repositioning offers an opportunity to revitalize the slowing drug discovery pipeline by finding new uses for currently existing drugs. Our hypothesis is that drugs sharing similar side effect profiles are likely to be effective for the same disease, and thus repositioning opportunities can be identified by finding drug pairs with similar side effects documented in U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug labels. The safety information in the drug labels is usually obtained in the clinical trial and augmented with the observations in the post-market use of the drug. Therefore, our drug repositioning approach can take the advantage of more comprehensive safety information comparing with conventional de novo approach.
A probabilistic topic model was constructed based on the terms in the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) that appeared in the Boxed Warning, Warnings and Precautions, and Adverse Reactions sections of the labels of 870 drugs. Fifty-two unique topics, each containing a set of terms, were identified by using topic modeling. The resulting probabilistic topic associations were used to measure the distance (similarity) between drugs. The success of the proposed model was evaluated by comparing a drug and its nearest neighbor (i.e., a drug pair) for common indications found in the Indications and Usage Section of the drug labels.
Given a drug with more than three indications, the model yielded a 75% recall, meaning 75% of drug pairs shared one or more common indications. This is significantly higher than the 22% recall rate achieved by random selection. Additionally, the recall rate grows rapidly as the number of drug indications increases and reaches 84% for drugs with 11 indications. The analysis also demonstrated that 65 drugs with a Boxed Warning, which indicates significant risk of serious and possibly life-threatening adverse effects, might be replaced with safer alternatives that do not have a Boxed Warning. In addition, we identified two therapeutic groups of drugs (Musculo-skeletal system and Anti-infective for systemic use) where over 80% of the drugs have a potential replacement with high significance.
Topic modeling can be a powerful tool for the identification of repositioning opportunities by examining the adverse event terms in FDA approved drug labels. The proposed framework not only suggests drugs that can be repurposed, but also provides insight into the safety of repositioned drugs.
PMCID: PMC3439728  PMID: 23046522
2.  The prince and the pauper. A tale of anticancer targeted agents 
Molecular Cancer  2008;7:82.
Cancer rates are set to increase at an alarming rate, from 10 million new cases globally in 2000 to 15 million in 2020. Regarding the pharmacological treatment of cancer, we currently are in the interphase of two treatment eras. The so-called pregenomic therapy which names the traditional cancer drugs, mainly cytotoxic drug types, and post-genomic era-type drugs referring to rationally-based designed. Although there are successful examples of this newer drug discovery approach, most target-specific agents only provide small gains in symptom control and/or survival, whereas others have consistently failed in the clinical testing. There is however, a characteristic shared by these agents: -their high cost-. This is expected as drug discovery and development is generally carried out within the commercial rather than the academic realm. Given the extraordinarily high therapeutic drug discovery-associated costs and risks, it is highly unlikely that any single public-sector research group will see a novel chemical "probe" become a "drug". An alternative drug development strategy is the exploitation of established drugs that have already been approved for treatment of non-cancerous diseases and whose cancer target has already been discovered. This strategy is also denominated drug repositioning, drug repurposing, or indication switch. Although traditionally development of these drugs was unlikely to be pursued by Big Pharma due to their limited commercial value, biopharmaceutical companies attempting to increase productivity at present are pursuing drug repositioning. More and more companies are scanning the existing pharmacopoeia for repositioning candidates, and the number of repositioning success stories is increasing. Here we provide noteworthy examples of known drugs whose potential anticancer activities have been highlighted, to encourage further research on these known drugs as a means to foster their translation into clinical trials utilizing the more limited public-sector resources. If these drug types eventually result in being effective, it follows that they could be much more affordable for patients with cancer; therefore, their contribution in terms of reducing cancer mortality at the global level would be greater.
PMCID: PMC2615789  PMID: 18947424
3.  DMAP: a connectivity map database to enable identification of novel drug repositioning candidates 
BMC Bioinformatics  2015;16(Suppl 13):S4.
Drug repositioning is a cost-efficient and time-saving process to drug development compared to traditional techniques. A systematic method to drug repositioning is to identify candidate drug's gene expression profiles on target disease models and determine how similar these profiles are to approved drugs. Databases such as the CMAP have been developed recently to help with systematic drug repositioning.
To overcome the limitation of connectivity maps on data coverage, we constructed a comprehensive in silico drug-protein connectivity map called DMAP, which contains directed drug-to-protein effects and effect scores. The drug-to-protein effect scores are compiled from all database entries between the drug and protein have been previously observed and provide a confidence measure on the quality of such drug-to-protein effects.
In DMAP, we have compiled the direct effects between 24,121 PubChem Compound ID (CID), which were mapped from 289,571 chemical entities recognized from public literature, and 5,196 reviewed Uniprot proteins. DMAP compiles a total of 438,004 chemical-to-protein effect relationships. Compared to CMAP, DMAP shows an increase of 221 folds in the number of chemicals and 1.92 fold in the number of ATC codes. Furthermore, by overlapping DMAP chemicals with the approved drugs with known indications from the TTD database and literature, we obtained 982 drugs and 622 diseases; meanwhile, we only obtained 394 drugs with known indication from CMAP. To validate the feasibility of applying new DMAP for systematic drug repositioning, we compared the performance of DMAP and the well-known CMAP database on two popular computational techniques: drug-drug-similarity-based method with leave-one-out validation and Kolmogorov-Smirnov scoring based method. In drug-drug-similarity-based method, the drug repositioning prediction using DMAP achieved an Area-Under-Curve (AUC) score of 0.82, compared with that using CMAP, AUC = 0.64. For Kolmogorov-Smirnov scoring based method, with DMAP, we were able to retrieve several drug indications which could not be retrieved using CMAP. DMAP data can be queried using the existing C2MAP server or downloaded freely at:
Reliable measurements of how drug affect disease-related proteins are critical to ongoing drug development in the genome medicine era. We demonstrated that DMAP can help drug development professionals assess drug-to-protein relationship data and improve chances of success for systematic drug repositioning efforts.
PMCID: PMC4597058  PMID: 26423722
4.  Drug Repositioning Approaches for the Discovery of New Therapeutics for Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurotherapeutics  2014;12(1):132-142.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia and represents one of the highest unmet needs in medicine today. Drug development efforts for AD have been encumbered by largely unsuccessful clinical trials in the last decade. Drug repositioning, a process of discovering a new therapeutic use for existing drugs or drug candidates, is an attractive and timely drug development strategy especially for AD. Compared with traditional de novo drug development, time and cost are reduced as the safety and pharmacokinetic properties of most repositioning candidates have already been determined. A majority of drug repositioning efforts for AD have been based on positive clinical or epidemiological observations or in vivo efficacy found in mouse models of AD. More systematic, multidisciplinary approaches will further facilitate drug repositioning for AD. Some experimental approaches include unbiased phenotypic screening using the library of available drug collections in physiologically relevant model systems (e.g. stem cell-derived neurons or glial cells), computational prediction and selection approaches that leverage the accumulating data resulting from RNA expression profiles, and genome-wide association studies. This review will summarize several notable strategies and representative examples of drug repositioning for AD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13311-014-0325-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4322062  PMID: 25549849
Drug repositioning; drug repurposing; drug discovery; Alzheimer’s disease; phenotypic screening; treatment; therapeutics
5.  PREDICT: a method for inferring novel drug indications with application to personalized medicine 
The authors present a new method, PREDICT, for the large-scale prediction of drug indications, and demonstrate its use on both approved drugs and novel molecules. They also provide a proof-of-concept for its potential utility in predicting patient-specific medications.
We present a novel method for the large-scale prediction of drug indications that can handle both approved drugs and novel molecules.Our method utilizes multiple drug–drug and disease–disease similarity measures for the prediction task, obtaining high specificity and sensitivity rates (AUC=0.9).Our drug repositioning predictions cover 27% of the indications currently tested on clinical trials (P<2 × 10−220).We show comparable performance using a gene expression signature-based disease–disease similarity, laying the computational foundation for predicting patient-specific indications.
Predicting indications for new molecules or finding alternative indications for approved drugs is a laborious and costly process (DiMasi et al, 2003), calling for computational solutions that would minimize production time and development costs (Terstappen and Reggiani, 2001). Here, we present a novel method for predicting drug indications, PREDICT, capable of handling both approved drugs and novel molecules. Our method is based on the assumption that similar drugs are indicated for similar diseases. To score a possible drug–disease association, we compute its similarity to known associations by combining drug–drug and disease–disease similarity computations. This strategy achieves high specificity and sensitivity rates in a cross-validation setting, where part of the known associations are hidden and the method is assessed based on how well it can retrieve them based on the rest of the associations. Assessing its predictions of novel indications for existing drugs, we find that it covers a significant portion (27%, P<2 × 10−220) of drug indications currently tested on clinical trials. Examples of such predictions include: (i) Cabergoline, indicated for Hyperprolactinemia, which is predicted to treat Migrane, a prediction supported by two separate studies (Verhelst et al, 1999; Cavestro et al, 2006) and (ii) Progesterone, which is predicted to treat renal cell cancer, non-papillary (npRCC), supported by the study of Izumi et al (2007). In addition, we provide indication predictions for novel molecules. For example, Cycloleucine is predicted for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD); indeed, Cycloleucine was found to be a potent and selective antagonist of NMDA receptor-mediated responses (Hershkowitz and Rogawski, 1989), a new promising class of chemicals for the treatment of AD (Farlow, 2004). As another example, Hyperforin, St John's wort extract, is predicted to treat hyperthermia. Interestingly, St John's wort extract was found to have anxiolytic effects on stress-induced hyperthermia in mice (Grundmann et al, 2006). We further introduce a disease–disease similarity measure based on disease-specific gene signatures and show that such a measure can be used by our method to accurately predict drug indications. Importantly, this suggests the potential utility of our approach also in a personalized medicine setting, whereby future gene expression signatures from individual patients would replace these disease-specific signatures.
Inferring potential drug indications, for either novel or approved drugs, is a key step in drug development. Previous computational methods in this domain have focused on either drug repositioning or matching drug and disease gene expression profiles. Here, we present a novel method for the large-scale prediction of drug indications (PREDICT) that can handle both approved drugs and novel molecules. Our method is based on the observation that similar drugs are indicated for similar diseases, and utilizes multiple drug–drug and disease–disease similarity measures for the prediction task. On cross-validation, it obtains high specificity and sensitivity (AUC=0.9) in predicting drug indications, surpassing existing methods. We validate our predictions by their overlap with drug indications that are currently under clinical trials, and by their agreement with tissue-specific expression information on the drug targets. We further show that disease-specific genetic signatures can be used to accurately predict drug indications for new diseases (AUC=0.92). This lays the computational foundation for future personalized drug treatments, where gene expression signatures from individual patients would replace the disease-specific signatures.
PMCID: PMC3159979  PMID: 21654673
drug indication prediction; drug repositioning; drug repurposing; machine learning; personalized medicine
6.  Prediction of Drug-Target Interactions for Drug Repositioning Only Based on Genomic Expression Similarity 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(11):e1003315.
Small drug molecules usually bind to multiple protein targets or even unintended off-targets. Such drug promiscuity has often led to unwanted or unexplained drug reactions, resulting in side effects or drug repositioning opportunities. So it is always an important issue in pharmacology to identify potential drug-target interactions (DTI). However, DTI discovery by experiment remains a challenging task, due to high expense of time and resources. Many computational methods are therefore developed to predict DTI with high throughput biological and clinical data. Here, we initiatively demonstrate that the on-target and off-target effects could be characterized by drug-induced in vitro genomic expression changes, e.g. the data in Connectivity Map (CMap). Thus, unknown ligands of a certain target can be found from the compounds showing high gene-expression similarity to the known ligands. Then to clarify the detailed practice of CMap based DTI prediction, we objectively evaluate how well each target is characterized by CMap. The results suggest that (1) some targets are better characterized than others, so the prediction models specific to these well characterized targets would be more accurate and reliable; (2) in some cases, a family of ligands for the same target tend to interact with common off-targets, which may help increase the efficiency of DTI discovery and explain the mechanisms of complicated drug actions. In the present study, CMap expression similarity is proposed as a novel indicator of drug-target interactions. The detailed strategies of improving data quality by decreasing the batch effect and building prediction models are also effectively established. We believe the success in CMap can be further translated into other public and commercial data of genomic expression, thus increasing research productivity towards valid drug repositioning and minimal side effects.
Author Summary
Small drug molecules usually bind to unintended off-targets, leading to unexpected drug responses such as side effects or drug repositioning opportunities. Thus, identifying unintended drug-target interactions (DTI) is particularly required for understanding complicated drug actions. It remains expensive nowadays to experimentally determine DTI, so various computational methods are developed. In this study, we initiatively demonstrated that target binding is directly correlated with drug induced genomic expression profiles in Connectivity Map (CMap). By improving data quality of CMap, we illustrated three important facts: (1) Drugs binding to common targets show higher gene-expression similarity than random compounds, indicating that upstream ligand binding could be characterized by downstream gene-expression change. (2) It is found that some targets are better characterized by CMap than others. To guarantee efficiency of DTI discovery, prediction models should be specifically built for those well characterized targets. (3) It is broadly observed in the predicted DTI that ligands for the same target may collectively interact with common off-target. This observation is consistent with published experimental evidence and can help illustrate the mechanisms of unexplained drug reactions. Based on CMap, our work established an efficient pipeline of identifying potential DTI. By extending the success in CMap to other genomic data sources, we believe more DTI would be discovered.
PMCID: PMC3820513  PMID: 24244130
7.  A Computational Approach to Finding Novel Targets for Existing Drugs 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(9):e1002139.
Repositioning existing drugs for new therapeutic uses is an efficient approach to drug discovery. We have developed a computational drug repositioning pipeline to perform large-scale molecular docking of small molecule drugs against protein drug targets, in order to map the drug-target interaction space and find novel interactions. Our method emphasizes removing false positive interaction predictions using criteria from known interaction docking, consensus scoring, and specificity. In all, our database contains 252 human protein drug targets that we classify as reliable-for-docking as well as 4621 approved and experimental small molecule drugs from DrugBank. These were cross-docked, then filtered through stringent scoring criteria to select top drug-target interactions. In particular, we used MAPK14 and the kinase inhibitor BIM-8 as examples where our stringent thresholds enriched the predicted drug-target interactions with known interactions up to 20 times compared to standard score thresholds. We validated nilotinib as a potent MAPK14 inhibitor in vitro (IC50 40 nM), suggesting a potential use for this drug in treating inflammatory diseases. The published literature indicated experimental evidence for 31 of the top predicted interactions, highlighting the promising nature of our approach. Novel interactions discovered may lead to the drug being repositioned as a therapeutic treatment for its off-target's associated disease, added insight into the drug's mechanism of action, and added insight into the drug's side effects.
Author Summary
Most drugs are designed to bind to and inhibit the function of a disease target protein. However, drugs are often able to bind to ‘off-target’ proteins due to similarities in the protein binding sites. If an off-target is known to be involved in another disease, then the drug has potential to treat the second disease. This repositioning strategy is an alternate and efficient approach to drug discovery, as the clinical and toxicity histories of existing drugs can greatly reduce drug development cost and time. We present here a large-scale computational approach that simulates three-dimensional binding between existing drugs and target proteins to predict novel drug-target interactions. Our method focuses on removing false predictions, using annotated ‘known’ interactions, scoring and ranking thresholds. 31 of our top novel drug-target predictions were validated through literature search, and demonstrated the utility of our method. We were also able to identify the cancer drug nilotinib as a potent inhibitor of MAPK14, a target in inflammatory diseases, which suggests a potential use for the drug in treating rheumatoid arthritis.
PMCID: PMC3164726  PMID: 21909252
8.  In Silico Repositioning-Chemogenomics Strategy Identifies New Drugs with Potential Activity against Multiple Life Stages of Schistosoma mansoni 
Morbidity and mortality caused by schistosomiasis are serious public health problems in developing countries. Because praziquantel is the only drug in therapeutic use, the risk of drug resistance is a concern. In the search for new schistosomicidal drugs, we performed a target-based chemogenomics screen of a dataset of 2,114 proteins to identify drugs that are approved for clinical use in humans that may be active against multiple life stages of Schistosoma mansoni. Each of these proteins was treated as a potential drug target, and its amino acid sequence was used to interrogate three databases: Therapeutic Target Database (TTD), DrugBank and STITCH. Predicted drug-target interactions were refined using a combination of approaches, including pairwise alignment, conservation state of functional regions and chemical space analysis. To validate our strategy, several drugs previously shown to be active against Schistosoma species were correctly predicted, such as clonazepam, auranofin, nifedipine, and artesunate. We were also able to identify 115 drugs that have not yet been experimentally tested against schistosomes and that require further assessment. Some examples are aprindine, gentamicin, clotrimazole, tetrabenazine, griseofulvin, and cinnarizine. In conclusion, we have developed a systematic and focused computer-aided approach to propose approved drugs that may warrant testing and/or serve as lead compounds for the design of new drugs against schistosomes.
Author Summary
Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by schistosome parasites that affects millions of people worldwide. The current reliance on a single drug (Praziquantel) for treatment and control of the disease calls for the urgent discovery of novel schistosomicidal agents. One approach that can expedite drug discovery is to find new uses for existing approved drugs, a practice known as drug repositioning. Currently, modern drug repositioning strategies entail the search for compounds that act on a specific target, often a protein known or suspected to be required for survival of the parasite. Drug repositioning approaches for schistosomiasis are now greatly facilitated by the availability of comprehensive schistosome genome data in user-friendly databases. Here, we report a drug repositioning computational strategy that involves identification of novel schistosomicidal drug candidates using similarity between schistosome proteins and known drug targets. Researchers can now use the list of predicted drugs as a basis for deciding which potential schistosomicidal candidates can be tested experimentally.
PMCID: PMC4287566  PMID: 25569258
9.  Towards Drug Repositioning: A Unified Computational Framework for Integrating Multiple Aspects of Drug Similarity and Disease Similarity 
AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings  2014;2014:1258-1267.
In response to the high cost and high risk associated with traditional de novo drug discovery, investigation of potential additional uses for existing drugs, also known as drug repositioning, has attracted increasing attention from both the pharmaceutical industry and the research community. In this paper, we propose a unified computational framework, called DDR, to predict novel drug-disease associations. DDR formulates the task of hypothesis generation for drug repositioning as a constrained nonlinear optimization problem. It utilizes multiple drug similarity networks, multiple disease similarity networks, and known drug-disease associations to explore potential new associations among drugs and diseases with no known links. A large-scale study was conducted using 799 drugs against 719 diseases. Experimental results demonstrated the effectiveness of the approach. In addition, DDR ranked drug and disease information sources based on their contributions to the prediction, thus paving the way for prioritizing multiple data sources and building more reliable drug repositioning models. Particularly, some of our novel predictions of drug-disease associations were supported by clinical trials databases, showing that DDR could serve as a useful tool in drug discovery to efficiently identify potential novel uses for existing drugs.
PMCID: PMC4419869  PMID: 25954437
10.  Computational drug repositioning through heterogeneous network clustering 
BMC Systems Biology  2013;7(Suppl 5):S6.
Given the costly and time consuming process and high attrition rates in drug discovery and development, drug repositioning or drug repurposing is considered as a viable strategy both to replenish the drying out drug pipelines and to surmount the innovation gap. Although there is a growing recognition that mechanistic relationships from molecular to systems level should be integrated into drug discovery paradigms, relatively few studies have integrated information about heterogeneous networks into computational drug-repositioning candidate discovery platforms.
Using known disease-gene and drug-target relationships from the KEGG database, we built a weighted disease and drug heterogeneous network. The nodes represent drugs or diseases while the edges represent shared gene, biological process, pathway, phenotype or a combination of these features. We clustered this weighted network to identify modules and then assembled all possible drug-disease pairs (putative drug repositioning candidates) from these modules. We validated our predictions by testing their robustness and evaluated them by their overlap with drug indications that were either reported in published literature or investigated in clinical trials.
Previous computational approaches for drug repositioning focused either on drug-drug and disease-disease similarity approaches whereas we have taken a more holistic approach by considering drug-disease relationships also. Further, we considered not only gene but also other features to build the disease drug networks. Despite the relative simplicity of our approach, based on the robustness analyses and the overlap of some of our predictions with drug indications that are under investigation, we believe our approach could complement the current computational approaches for drug repositioning candidate discovery.
PMCID: PMC4029299  PMID: 24564976
11.  Discovery and preclinical validation of drug indications using compendia of public gene expression data 
Science translational medicine  2011;3(96):96ra77.
The application of established drug compounds to novel therapeutic indications, known as drug repositioning, offers several advantages over traditional drug development, including reduced development costs and shorter paths to approval. Recent approaches to drug repositioning employ high-throughput experimental approaches to assess a compound’s potential therapeutic qualities. Here we present a systematic computational approach to predict novel therapeutic indications based on comprehensive testing of molecular signatures in drug-disease pairs. We integrated gene expression measurements from 100 diseases and gene expression measurements on 164 drug compounds yielding predicted therapeutic potentials for these drugs. We demonstrate the ability to recover many known drug and disease relationships using computationally derived therapeutic potentials, and also predict many new indications for these drugs. We experimentally validated a prediction for the anti-ulcer drug cimetidine as a candidate therapeutic in the treatment of lung adenocarcinoma, and demonstrate both in vitro and in vivo using mouse xenograft models. This novel computational method provides a novel and systematic approach to reposition established drugs to treat a wide range of human diseases.
PMCID: PMC3502016  PMID: 21849665
12.  Drug repositioning for orphan genetic diseases through Conserved Anticoexpressed Gene Clusters (CAGCs) 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:288.
The development of new therapies for orphan genetic diseases represents an extremely important medical and social challenge. Drug repositioning, i.e. finding new indications for approved drugs, could be one of the most cost- and time-effective strategies to cope with this problem, at least in a subset of cases. Therefore, many computational approaches based on the analysis of high throughput gene expression data have so far been proposed to reposition available drugs. However, most of these methods require gene expression profiles directly relevant to the pathologic conditions under study, such as those obtained from patient cells and/or from suitable experimental models. In this work we have developed a new approach for drug repositioning, based on identifying known drug targets showing conserved anti-correlated expression profiles with human disease genes, which is completely independent from the availability of ‘ad hoc’ gene expression data-sets.
By analyzing available data, we provide evidence that the genes displaying conserved anti-correlation with drug targets are antagonistically modulated in their expression by treatment with the relevant drugs. We then identified clusters of genes associated to similar phenotypes and showing conserved anticorrelation with drug targets. On this basis, we generated a list of potential candidate drug-disease associations. Importantly, we show that some of the proposed associations are already supported by independent experimental evidence.
Our results support the hypothesis that the identification of gene clusters showing conserved anticorrelation with drug targets can be an effective method for drug repositioning and provide a wide list of new potential drug-disease associations for experimental validation.
PMCID: PMC3851137  PMID: 24088245
13.  DRUGSURV: a resource for repositioning of approved and experimental drugs in oncology based on patient survival information 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(2):e1051-.
The use of existing drugs for new therapeutic applications, commonly referred to as drug repositioning, is a way for fast and cost-efficient drug discovery. Drug repositioning in oncology is commonly initiated by in vitro experimental evidence that a drug exhibits anticancer cytotoxicity. Any independent verification that the observed effects in vitro may be valid in a clinical setting, and that the drug could potentially affect patient survival in vivo is of paramount importance. Despite considerable recent efforts in computational drug repositioning, none of the studies have considered patient survival information in modelling the potential of existing/new drugs in the management of cancer. Therefore, we have developed DRUGSURV; this is the first computational tool to estimate the potential effects of a drug using patient survival information derived from clinical cancer expression data sets. DRUGSURV provides statistical evidence that a drug can affect survival outcome in particular clinical conditions to justify further investigation of the drug anticancer potential and to guide clinical trial design. DRUGSURV covers both approved drugs (∼1700) as well as experimental drugs (∼5000) and is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3944280  PMID: 24503543
drug repositioning; clinical trial design; patient survival; thioridazine
14.  Recent Advances in Drug Repositioning for the Discovery of New Anticancer Drugs 
Drug repositioning (also referred to as drug repurposing), the process of finding new uses of existing drugs, has been gaining popularity in recent years. The availability of several established clinical drug libraries and rapid advances in disease biology, genomics and bioinformatics has accelerated the pace of both activity-based and in silico drug repositioning. Drug repositioning has attracted particular attention from the communities engaged in anticancer drug discovery due to the combination of great demand for new anticancer drugs and the availability of a wide variety of cell- and target-based screening assays. With the successful clinical introduction of a number of non-cancer drugs for cancer treatment, drug repositioning now became a powerful alternative strategy to discover and develop novel anticancer drug candidates from the existing drug space. In this review, recent successful examples of drug repositioning for anticancer drug discovery from non-cancer drugs will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4081601  PMID: 25013375
drug repositioning; drug discovery; cancer; angiogenesis; drug screening; drug library.
15.  Drug Repositioning for Gynecologic Tumors: A New Therapeutic Strategy for Cancer 
The Scientific World Journal  2015;2015:341362.
The goals of drug repositioning are to find a new pharmacological effect of a drug for which human safety and pharmacokinetics are established and to expand the therapeutic range of the drug to another disease. Such drug discovery can be performed at low cost and in the short term based on the results of previous clinical trials. New drugs for gynecologic tumors may be found by drug repositioning. For example, PPAR ligands may be effective against ovarian cancer, since PPAR activation eliminates COX-2 expression, arrests the cell cycle, and induces apoptosis. Metformin, an antidiabetic drug, is effective for endometrial cancer through inhibition of the PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathway by activating LKB1-AMPK and reduction of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 due to AMPK activation. COX-2 inhibitors for cervical cancer may also be examples of drug repositioning. PGE2 is induced in the arachidonate cascade by COX-2. PGE2 maintains high expression of COX-2 and induces angiogenic factors including VEGF and bFGF, causing carcinogenesis. COX-2 inhibitors suppress these actions and inhibit carcinogenesis. Combination therapy using drugs found by drug repositioning and current anticancer drugs may increase efficacy and reduce adverse drug reactions. Thus, drug repositioning may become a key approach for gynecologic cancer in drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC4334926  PMID: 25734181
16.  Drug Repositioning by Kernel-Based Integration of Molecular Structure, Molecular Activity, and Phenotype Data 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78518.
Computational inference of novel therapeutic values for existing drugs, i.e., drug repositioning, offers the great prospect for faster and low-risk drug development. Previous researches have indicated that chemical structures, target proteins, and side-effects could provide rich information in drug similarity assessment and further disease similarity. However, each single data source is important in its own way and data integration holds the great promise to reposition drug more accurately. Here, we propose a new method for drug repositioning, PreDR (Predict Drug Repositioning), to integrate molecular structure, molecular activity, and phenotype data. Specifically, we characterize drug by profiling in chemical structure, target protein, and side-effects space, and define a kernel function to correlate drugs with diseases. Then we train a support vector machine (SVM) to computationally predict novel drug-disease interactions. PreDR is validated on a well-established drug-disease network with 1,933 interactions among 593 drugs and 313 diseases. By cross-validation, we find that chemical structure, drug target, and side-effects information are all predictive for drug-disease relationships. More experimentally observed drug-disease interactions can be revealed by integrating these three data sources. Comparison with existing methods demonstrates that PreDR is competitive both in accuracy and coverage. Follow-up database search and pathway analysis indicate that our new predictions are worthy of further experimental validation. Particularly several novel predictions are supported by clinical trials databases and this shows the significant prospects of PreDR in future drug treatment. In conclusion, our new method, PreDR, can serve as a useful tool in drug discovery to efficiently identify novel drug-disease interactions. In addition, our heterogeneous data integration framework can be applied to other problems.
PMCID: PMC3823875  PMID: 24244318
17.  Prediction of novel drug indications using network driven biological data prioritization and integration 
With the rapid development of high-throughput genomic technologies and the accumulation of genome-wide datasets for gene expression profiling and biological networks, the impact of diseases and drugs on gene expression can be comprehensively characterized. Drug repositioning offers the possibility of reduced risks in the drug discovery process, thus it is an essential step in drug development.
Computational prediction of drug-disease interactions using gene expression profiling datasets and biological networks is a new direction in drug repositioning that has gained increasing interest. We developed a computational framework to build disease-drug networks using drug- and disease-specific subnetworks. The framework incorporates protein networks to refine drug and disease associated genes and prioritize genes in disease and drug specific networks. For each drug and disease we built multiple networks using gene expression profiling and text mining. Finally a logistic regression model was used to build functional associations between drugs and diseases.
We found that representing drugs and diseases by genes with high centrality degree in gene networks is the most promising representation of drug or disease subnetworks.
PMCID: PMC3896815  PMID: 24397863
Disease; Drug; Gene; Protein networks
18.  Concept Modeling-based Drug Repositioning 
Our hypothesis is that drugs and diseases sharing similar biomedical and genomic concepts are likely to be related, and thus repositioning opportunities can be identified by ranking drugs based on the incidence of shared similar concepts with diseases and vice versa. To test this, we constructed a probabilistic topic model based on the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) concepts that appear in the disease and drug related abstracts in MEDLINE. The resulting probabilistic topic associations were used to measure the similarity between disease and drugs. The success of the proposed model is evaluated using a set of repositioned drugs, and comparing a drug’s ranking based on its similarity to the original and new indication. We then applied the model to rare disorders and compared them to all approved drugs to facilitate “systematically serendipitous” discovery of relationships between rare diseases and existing drugs, some of which could be potential repositioning candidates.
PMCID: PMC4525261  PMID: 26306277
19.  Repositioning drugs for inflammatory disease – fishing for new anti-inflammatory agents 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2014;7(9):1069-1081.
Inflammation is an important and appropriate host response to infection or injury. However, dysregulation of this response, with resulting persistent or inappropriate inflammation, underlies a broad range of pathological processes, from inflammatory dermatoses to type 2 diabetes and cancer. As such, identifying new drugs to suppress inflammation is an area of intense interest. Despite notable successes, there still exists an unmet need for new effective therapeutic approaches to treat inflammation. Traditional drug discovery, including structure-based drug design, have largely fallen short of satisfying this unmet need. With faster development times and reduced safety and pharmacokinetic uncertainty, drug repositioning – the process of finding new uses for existing drugs – is emerging as an alternative strategy to traditional drug design that promises an improved risk-reward trade-off. Using a zebrafish in vivo neutrophil migration assay, we undertook a drug repositioning screen to identify unknown anti-inflammatory activities for known drugs. By interrogating a library of 1280 approved drugs for their ability to suppress the recruitment of neutrophils to tail fin injury, we identified a number of drugs with significant anti-inflammatory activity that have not previously been characterized as general anti-inflammatories. Importantly, we reveal that the ten most potent repositioned drugs from our zebrafish screen displayed conserved anti-inflammatory activity in a mouse model of skin inflammation (atopic dermatitis). This study provides compelling evidence that exploiting the zebrafish as an in vivo drug repositioning platform holds promise as a strategy to reveal new anti-inflammatory activities for existing drugs.
PMCID: PMC4142727  PMID: 25038060
Drug repositioning; Zebrafish; Inflammation; Neutrophil; Atopic dermatitis; Immunity
20.  Drug repositioning for personalized medicine 
Genome Medicine  2012;4(3):27.
Human diseases can be caused by complex mechanisms involving aberrations in numerous proteins and pathways. With recent advances in genomics, elucidating the molecular basis of disease on a personalized level has become an attainable goal. In many cases, relevant molecular targets will be identified for which approved drugs already exist, and the potential repositioning of these drugs to a new indication can be investigated. Repositioning is an accelerated route for drug discovery because existing drugs have established clinical and pharmacokinetic data. Personalized medicine and repositioning both aim to improve the productivity of current drug discovery pipelines, which expend enormous time and cost to develop new drugs, only to have them fail in clinical trials because of lack of efficacy or toxicity. Here, we discuss the current state of research in these two fields, focusing on recent large-scale efforts to systematically find repositioning candidates and elucidate individual disease mechanisms in cancer. We also discuss scenarios in which personalized drug repositioning could be particularly rewarding, such as for diseases that are rare or have specific mutations, as well as current challenges in this field. With an increasing number of drugs being approved for rare cancer subtypes, personalized medicine and repositioning approaches are poised to significantly alter the way we diagnose diseases, infer treatments and develop new drugs.
PMCID: PMC3446277  PMID: 22494857
Personalized medicine; repositioning; repurposing; drug discovery; cancer; orphan diseases; high-throughput screening; computational drug design
21.  Novel Modeling of Cancer Cell Signaling Pathways Enables Systematic Drug Repositioning for Distinct Breast Cancer Metastases 
Cancer research  2013;73(20):6149-6163.
A new type of signaling network element, called cancer signaling bridges (CSB), has been shown to have the potential for systematic and fast-tracked drug repositioning. On the basis of CSBs, we developed a computational model to derive specific downstream signaling pathways that reveal previously unknown target–disease connections and new mechanisms for specific cancer subtypes. The model enables us to reposition drugs based on available patient gene expression data. We applied this model to repurpose known or shelved drugs for brain, lung, and bone metastases of breast cancer with the hypothesis that cancer subtypes have their own specific signaling mechanisms. To test the hypothesis, we addressed specific CSBs for each metastasis that satisfy (i) CSB proteins are activated by the maximal number of enriched signaling pathways specific to a given metastasis, and (ii) CSB proteins are involved in the most differential expressed coding genes specific to each breast cancer metastasis. The identified signaling networks for the three types of breast cancer metastases contain 31, 15, and 18 proteins and are used to reposition 15, 9, and 2 drug candidates for the brain, lung, and bone metastases. We conducted both in vitro and in vivo preclinical experiments as well as analysis on patient tumor specimens to evaluate the targets and repositioned drugs. Of special note, we found that the Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, sunitinib and dasatinib, prohibit brain metastases derived from breast cancer, addressing one particularly challenging aspect of this disease.
PMCID: PMC4005386  PMID: 24097821
22.  Drug Target Prediction and Repositioning Using an Integrated Network-Based Approach 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60618.
The discovery of novel drug targets is a significant challenge in drug development. Although the human genome comprises approximately 30,000 genes, proteins encoded by fewer than 400 are used as drug targets in the treatment of diseases. Therefore, novel drug targets are extremely valuable as the source for first in class drugs. On the other hand, many of the currently known drug targets are functionally pleiotropic and involved in multiple pathologies. Several of them are exploited for treating multiple diseases, which highlights the need for methods to reliably reposition drug targets to new indications. Network-based methods have been successfully applied to prioritize novel disease-associated genes. In recent years, several such algorithms have been developed, some focusing on local network properties only, and others taking the complete network topology into account. Common to all approaches is the understanding that novel disease-associated candidates are in close overall proximity to known disease genes. However, the relevance of these methods to the prediction of novel drug targets has not yet been assessed. Here, we present a network-based approach for the prediction of drug targets for a given disease. The method allows both repositioning drug targets known for other diseases to the given disease and the prediction of unexploited drug targets which are not used for treatment of any disease. Our approach takes as input a disease gene expression signature and a high-quality interaction network and outputs a prioritized list of drug targets. We demonstrate the high performance of our method and highlight the usefulness of the predictions in three case studies. We present novel drug targets for scleroderma and different types of cancer with their underlying biological processes. Furthermore, we demonstrate the ability of our method to identify non-suspected repositioning candidates using diabetes type 1 as an example.
PMCID: PMC3617101  PMID: 23593264
23.  Pathway-based drug repositioning using causal inference 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14(Suppl 16):S3.
Recent in vivo studies showed new hopes of drug repositioning through causality inference from drugs to disease. Inspired by their success, here we present an in silico method for building a causal network (CauseNet) between drugs and diseases, in an attempt to systematically identify new therapeutic uses of existing drugs.
Unlike the traditional 'one drug-one target-one disease' causal model, we simultaneously consider all possible causal chains connecting drugs to diseases via target- and gene-involved pathways based on rich information in several expert-curated knowledge-bases. With statistical learning, our method estimates transition likelihood of each causal chain in the network based on known drug-disease treatment associations (e.g. bexarotene treats skin cancer).
To demonstrate its validity, our method showed high performance (AUC = 0.859) in cross validation. Moreover, our top scored prediction results are highly enriched in literature and clinical trials. As a showcase of its utility, we show several drugs for potential re-use in Crohn's Disease.
We successfully developed a computational method for discovering new uses of existing drugs based on casual inference in a layered drug-target-pathway-gene- disease network. The results showed that our proposed method enables hypothesis generation from public accessible biological data for drug repositioning.
PMCID: PMC3853312  PMID: 24564553
24.  Cryo-EM structure of the Plasmodium falciparum 80S ribosome bound to the anti-protozoan drug emetine 
eLife  2014;3:e03080.
Malaria inflicts an enormous burden on global human health. The emergence of parasite resistance to front-line drugs has prompted a renewed focus on the repositioning of clinically approved drugs as potential anti-malarial therapies. Antibiotics that inhibit protein translation are promising candidates for repositioning. We have solved the cryo-EM structure of the cytoplasmic ribosome from the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in complex with emetine at 3.2 Å resolution. Emetine is an anti-protozoan drug used in the treatment of ameobiasis that also displays potent anti-malarial activity. Emetine interacts with the E-site of the ribosomal small subunit and shares a similar binding site with the antibiotic pactamycin, thereby delivering its therapeutic effect by blocking mRNA/tRNA translocation. As the first cryo-EM structure that visualizes an antibiotic bound to any ribosome at atomic resolution, this establishes cryo-EM as a powerful tool for screening and guiding the design of drugs that target parasite translation machinery.
eLife digest
Each year, malaria kills more than 600,000 people, mostly children younger than 5 years old. Humans who have been bitten by mosquitoes infected with malaria-causing parasites become ill as the parasites rapidly multiply in blood cells. Although there are several drugs that are currently used to treat malaria, the parasites are rapidly developing resistance to them, setting off an urgent hunt for new malaria drugs.
Developing new antimalarial medications from scratch is likely to take decades—too long to combat the current public health threat posed by emerging strains of drug-resistant parasites. To speed up the process, scientists are investigating whether drugs developed for other illnesses may also act as therapies for malaria, either when used alone or in combination with existing malaria drugs.
Certain antibiotics—including one called emetine—have already shown promise as antimalarial drugs. These antibiotics prevent the parasites from multiplying by interfering with the ribosome—the part of a cell that builds new proteins. However, humans become ill after taking emetine for long periods because it also blocks the production of human proteins.
Tweaking emetine so that it acts only against the production of parasite proteins would make it a safer malaria treatment. To do this, scientists must first map the precise interactions between the drug and the ribosomes in parasites. Wong et al. have now used a technique called cryo-electron microscopy to examine the ribosome of the most virulent form of malaria parasite. This technique uses very cold temperatures to rapidly freeze molecules, allowing scientists to look at molecular-level details without distorting the structure of the molecule—a problem sometimes encountered in other techniques.
The images of the parasitic ribosome taken by Wong, Bai, Brown et al. show that emetine binds to the end of the ribosome where the instructions for how to assemble amino acids into a protein are copied from strands of RNA. In addition, the images revealed features of the parasitic ribosome that are not found in the human form. Drug makers could exploit these features to improve emetine so that it more specifically targets the production of proteins by the parasite and is less toxic to humans.
PMCID: PMC4086275  PMID: 24913268
malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; ribosome; drug development; cryo-EM; other
25.  Using Functional Signatures to Identify Repositioned Drugs for Breast, Myelogenous Leukemia and Prostate Cancer 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(2):e1002347.
The cost and time to develop a drug continues to be a major barrier to widespread distribution of medication. Although the genomic revolution appears to have had little impact on this problem, and might even have exacerbated it because of the flood of additional and usually ineffective leads, the emergence of high throughput resources promises the possibility of rapid, reliable and systematic identification of approved drugs for originally unintended uses. In this paper we develop and apply a method for identifying such repositioned drug candidates against breast cancer, myelogenous leukemia and prostate cancer by looking for inverse correlations between the most perturbed gene expression levels in human cancer tissue and the most perturbed expression levels induced by bioactive compounds. The method uses variable gene signatures to identify bioactive compounds that modulate a given disease. This is in contrast to previous methods that use small and fixed signatures. This strategy is based on the observation that diseases stem from failed/modified cellular functions, irrespective of the particular genes that contribute to the function, i.e., this strategy targets the functional signatures for a given cancer. This function-based strategy broadens the search space for the effective drugs with an impressive hit rate. Among the 79, 94 and 88 candidate drugs for breast cancer, myelogenous leukemia and prostate cancer, 32%, 13% and 17% respectively are either FDA-approved/in-clinical-trial drugs, or drugs with suggestive literature evidences, with an FDR of 0.01. These findings indicate that the method presented here could lead to a substantial increase in efficiency in drug discovery and development, and has potential application for the personalized medicine.
Author Summary
The effective drug of a given disease is aimed to bring abnormal functions associated with disease back to the normal state. Using expression profile as the surrogate marker of the cellular function, we introduce a novel procedure to identify candidate therapeutics by searching for those bioactive compounds that either down-regulate abnormally over-expressed genes, or up-regulate those that are abnormally under-expressed. We show that the approach detects a pool of plausible candidates as repositioning/new drugs. In contrast to previous studies, our approach uses a variable big number of genes and/or gene combinations as a representation of functional signatures to identify bioactive compounds that modulate a given disease, irrespective of the particular genes that contribute to the cellular functions; therefore it covers potential drugs with heterogeneous properties. The method may also have potential application for the personalized medicine.
PMCID: PMC3276504  PMID: 22346740

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