Military troops take doxycycline to prevent infections and malaria, and teenagers use it to treat acne. Wilmot Cancer Institute scientists are also testing it for the treatment of lymphoma.
Carla Casulo, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine, is leading the clinical trial, which opened in March. The study is based on basic laboratory science conducted by Jiyong Zhao, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Genetics, who has shown that doxycycline can stop lymphoma cells from dividing, or slow the rate of division.
Zhao had been investigating the active cellular pathways in lymphoma, and was also searching the Food and Drug Administration’s library of thousands of approved medications for drugs that might inhibit those pathways. His work is part of a larger initiative at Wilmot to study the additional properties of existing FDA-approved medications to find out if they can be repurposed to fight cancer.
It was surprising and exciting when doxycycline turned up in the drug-screening process, Casulo said. The antibiotic is among the best tolerated and least expensive; Casulo said she’s heard from some of the enrolled patients that they’re impressed a scientist was thoughtful enough to investigate other uses for a common, non-toxic drug.
Study patients take four capsules (400 mgs) a day, with the goal of stabilizing their disease. Funding was provided by Two Sisters and a Wife Foundation, of Massachusetts, which donated $25,000 to WCI in 2011.