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Mol Cancer Ther. 2019 Jul;18(7):1185-1194. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-18-0666.

The Use of Ribavirin as an Anticancer Therapeutic: Will It Go Viral?

Author information

1
Hunterian Neurosurgical Research Laboratory, Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
2
IIAIGC Study Center, Burlington, Vermont.
3
Oncology, Ophthalmology, Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland.
4
Hunterian Neurosurgical Research Laboratory, Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. btyler@jhmi.edu.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

The growing cost of medical care worldwide, particularly in oncology, has incentivized researchers and physicians to repurpose clinically used drugs to alleviate the financial burden of drug development and offer potential new therapeutics. Recent works have demonstrated anticancer properties of the FDA-approved drug ribavirin, a synthetic guanosine analogue and antiviral molecule used over the past four decades for the treatment of hepatitis C. The efficacy of ribavirin in cancer has been explored through several preclinical models and ongoing clinical trials in multiple cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia, oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, and metastatic breast cancer. In this review, we summarize the role of ribavirin as an antiviral medication and focus our attention on its recent use as an antitumoral agent. We highlight current knowledge of the potential use and mechanisms of action of ribavirin in cancer. Because current therapeutics for patients with cancer still fail to cure, introducing new forms of treatment is essential. Converging evidence suggests that ribavirin represents a promising addition to a generation of newly repurposed safe and effective anticancer agents.

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