Old drugs new tricks: How some medicines come to treat different ailments
This week: Raloxifene
The drug raloxifene was approved in the 1990s as a preventative and treatment for postmenopausal osteoporosis – a loss of bone density after menopause due to the drop in oestrogen, a bone-strengthening hormone. It can cause bones to fracture more easily, commonly the wrist, hip or vertebrae.
Raloxifene is a selective oestrogen receptor modulator, a drug that can imitate the effect of oestrogen on bones.
Then in 2007, raloxifene was approved for use as a cancer drug. Some breast cancer cells use oestrogen to grow – it locks on to an oestrogen receptor in the cancer cell and encourages it to replicate. Because raloxifene imitates oestrogen, it locks on to the receptor instead, blocking oestrogen and slowing down excessive cell division.
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