The rare bone cancer chordoma can’t be treated with drugs right now, but the National Institutes of Health has identified 40 already-approved drugs that show promise as potential treatments. Now, a Johns Hopkins University scientists has funding to start screening the 10 most promising drugs from that list.
The Chordoma Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant to Dr. Gary Gallia, a skull-base neurosurgeon and cancer biologist at Johns Hopkins. Gallia’s focus is on developing new therapies for brain and skull-based tumors. His lab has a long record of studying mouse models of brain tumors and he has developed a xenograft mouse model to study chordoma.
Chordoma is a cancerous bone tumor that occurs along the spine, typically either in the base of the spine or the base of the skull. It’s very rare. For every million people, there is just one case a year, according to the Durham, North Carolina-based Chordoma Foundation. Average survival is seven to nine years.
The NIH in January identified more than 40 already-approved drugs that showed potential as chordoma treatments. But first, drug screening must be done before any one of them can be taken into clinical trials. Gallia will be testing the top 10 drugs in two mouse models.
Experiments with the first five drugs have already started. Tests on the next five drugs are expected to start later this year. The Chordoma Foundation said additional drugs will be studied in additional models as more funding becomes available. The foundation has set a goal of testing at least 20 drugs in three mouse models.
In the following video, NIH scientist Christopher Austin discusses the process of screening already-approved drugs to find drugs that could have applications in chordoma. He said it could be a faster way to a chordoma treatment for patients: “The reason we’re doing this for chordoma is because the conventional drug discovery process is 10 to 15 years.”