AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Treating cancer, by using an existing drug.

That’s what a doctor and his team at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy are hoping to do.

For 20 years, Dr. Sanjay Srivastava, the chair of the Department of Immunotherapeutics and Biotechnology at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy has investigated existing drugs to determine if they can be repurposed to treat conditions other than those for which they were developed and approved, and for much of the last decade, his research has focused on investigating non-cancer drugs which can be repurposed to treat various cancers.

Those efforts recently earned Dr. Srivastava, a U.S. Patent for repurposing pimavanserin to treat various types of cancer.

“We were screening that and found it had that this drug had significant anti-cancer reflux. That’s how we systemically start exploring this drug and different cancer models and find it is very effective and that is when we filled a patent,” said Dr. Srivastava.

Pimavanserin is often times prescribed to treat some of the psychosis issues associated with Parkinson’s disease, as the drug prevents hallucinations and delusions.

Dr. Srivastava hypothesizes that the drug could help with the treatment of brain cancer.

“Initially we were working on breast cancer and breast cancer metastasis is close to the lungs, bones as well as to the brain and so at that time my student was working on that metastasis of breast cancer to the brain and wondering which drug could be used and prevent the metastasis of breast cancer in the brain,” said Dr. Srivastava.

Dr. Srivastava added, “The biggest advantage of drug discovery, in this case, repurposing an existing drug is that it saves a lot of time and money. Otherwise, it takes years and years and a lot of money before the drug can get to the patient.”

He said that the drug also has been found to be effective against other cancers as well.

“We also published a paper about pancreatic cancer as well. It was effective against pancreatic cancer and like I said we started with breast cancer metastasis to the brain and it’s effective there,” said Dr. Srivastava

Dr. Srivastava said the primary hurdle to treating brain tumors is finding an effective drug that can pass through the blood-brain barrier.

He added his team is looking for clinical partners who would like to conduct trials with the drug and said this can determine whether or not pimavanserin has any active effect against cancer.

Because pimavanserin is already approved for use, the timeframe could accelerate, but Dr. Srivastava said there is no way to predict when the drug could be available to cancer patients until the clinical trial process is complete.