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18Mar 2020

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Compound library available: find new therapeutic applications that others missed

Drug repurposing is an effective approach to rapidly identify novel indications for known drugs and compounds. Oncode Institute takes part in a European consortium that has recently finished collecting over 5.000 drugs for this purpose. Together with the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and Leiden University Medical Center Oncode makes this library available for screening by research groups within and outside their institutes. All in order to support researchers in bringing novel therapeutic applications to the patient at affordable costs.

The new drug collection is based on the Broad Repurposing library and contains 5632 existing drugs in various stages of clinical development, including abandoned, off-patent and launched. Within their library researchers from the Broad Institute recently identified hundreds of compounds that were originally developed for non-oncology indications and showed killing activity in human cancer cell lines.

Available for researchers

Five European research institutes collaborated with the company SPECS, a supplier of research compounds to the life sciences industry, to generate a collection of more than 5.000 drugs. Head of the NKI Robotics and Screening Center Roderick Beijersbergen was closely involved in the generation of this library, which will now be available for researchers within and outside Oncode Institute and the NKI.

New applications

"One of the reasons why I think this library is of immense added value, is that it could support our goal of making healthcare and drug development more affordable", says NKI group leader René Bernards, who is also closely involved in the drug repurposing research. "For instance, if researchers find a new application for a drug that is already licensed for patient use, it would mean that we could clinically develop it further at a much faster pace and with less costs involved. In addition, most of the compounds in this library were only tested in a very limited setting, meaning not all possible applications were investigated."

3 versus 7 day assays

Bernards: "As cancer researchers, we are interested in very specific processes. We want to know whether a process is activated or deactivated by a certain compound. For example, we are interested in targeting senescent cells and it can take up to 7 days before you see any results. It is therefore very likely that we pick up on active compounds which were initially missed by the pharmaceutical industry, as their assays are typically only 3-day assays."

"The compound library is of great value to researchers", says Bernards. "It really gives them the opportunity to do targeted research and find things that others missed before. We focus on many different types of research and cancers and the library caters for this."

Access to the library

Researchers can get access to the library by contacting Jacqueline Staring, program manager at Oncode Institute (, or Roderick Beijersbergen (


Oncode Institute financially supported the generation of the drug collection. Within the Oncode Drug Repurposing programme researchers can get access to the library. There are currently two centers of expertise within Oncode: the Netherlands Cancer Institute and Leiden University Medical Center, with experts who can support researchers to optimize their assays, execute the compound screens, analyze the data and assist in validation and follow-up.

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Photo credit: Len Rubenstein Broadchembio62308

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