Experimental anticancer drug shows promise as treatment for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Doctor examines chest x-ray for signs of lung disease.

An experimental anticancer drug called saracatinib shows promise as a treatment for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a chronic and often fatal condition that causes scarring or fibrosis of the lungs and makes breathing difficult. The study, funded by NHLBI, appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

Two FDA-approved drugs, nintedanib and pirfenidone, are currently used to slow IPF disease progression, but they have side effects and do not completely relieve symptoms or cure the disease. Better drugs are needed, the researchers said. 

In the new study, the researchers identified saracatinib as a candidate for treating IPF by using computational predictions that screened drug candidates for anti-fibrotic effects. The researchers then exposed the drug to human lung cells in culture and found that it could reverse the disease signature of IPF.  

The researchers also tested the drug on lung fibroblasts, the cells that accumulate in lung scars, obtained from IPF patients who received transplants. Saracatinib reduced fibrosis formation in these preclinical models and appears to work as effectively or even better than current drugs used to treat IPF, the researchers said.