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Cancer drugs – a new treatment for COPD?

Recent research shows the potential of certain cancer drugs as a new treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by the development of progressive inflammatory lung diseases, which incorporates specific diseases including Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and refractory asthma (Non-reversible asthma). The disease is characterized by the interference of air to lungs which causes abnormal breathing, mucus production, and coughing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015 around 3.17 million deaths were caused by COPD globally. COPD is a preventable and treatable disease, however, there is no proven treatment to counteract the damage it causes to the lungs.

In a recent study published in eLife Journal, researchers investigated certain cancer drugs as a potential new treatment for COPD. COPD causes inflammation, which is what leads to permanent damage in the lungs. White blood cells known as neutrophils are responsible for promoting this inflammatory response To learn more about the effect of cancer drugs in the process of inflammation and COPD, the researchers screened an array of cancer drugs and identified potential compounds that caused the death of neutrophils and stimulated the healing process in the lungs.

The researchers identified candidate cancer drugs that increased the apoptosis (cell death) of these damaging neutrophils. The identified drug candidates were gefitinib, erbstatin, and tyrphostin AG825.

The researchers went on to demonstrate that mice treated with tyrphostin AG825 had reduced inflammation and higher levels of neutrophil apoptosis in the lungs.

The results of the study support the therapeutic potential of these drugs in the treatment of neutrophil-mediated inflammatory diseases, such as COPD. More research is necessary to confirm these results and test this treatment in human trials.


Written by Sakina Bano Mendha



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Rahman, A., Henry, K. M., Herman, K. D., Thompson, A. A., Isles, H. M., Tulotta, C., … Prince, L. R. (2019). Inhibition of ErbB kinase signalling promotes resolution of neutrophilic inflammation. ELife, 8. doi: 10.7554/elife.50990

Sheffielduni. (n.d.). Cancer drugs could potentially treat COPD, Sheffield research finds. Retrieved from

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