Science Policy
day one project

Repurposing Generic Drugs to Combat Cancer

04.06.21 | 1 min read | Text by Laura Kleiman & Shruthi Bhimaraju


Cancer patients urgently need more effective treatments that are accessible to everyone. This year alone, an estimated 1.9 million people in the United States will receive new cancer diagnoses, and cancer will kill more than 600,000 Americans. Yet there are no targeted therapeutics for many cancers, and the treatments that do exist can be prohibitively scarce or expensive.

Repurposing existing drugs, especially off-patent generics, is the fastest way to develop new treatments. Hundreds of non-cancer generic drugs have already been tested by researchers and physicians in preclinical and clinical studies for cancer, some up to Phase II trials, and show intriguing promise. But due to a market failure, there is a lack of funding for clinical trials that evaluate generic drugs. This means that there isn’t conclusive evidence of the efficacy and safety of repurposed generics for treating cancer, and so cancer patients who desperately need more (and more affordable) treatment options are unable to realize the benefits that existing generics might offer.

To quickly and affordably improve the lives of cancer patients, the Biden-Harris Administration should create the Repurposing Generics Grant Program through the National Cancer Institute. This program would fund definitive clinical trials evaluating repurposed generic drugs for cancer. A key first step would be for President Biden to include this program in his FY2022 budget proposal. Congress could then authorize the program and related appropriations totaling $100 million over 5 years.