Widely used drug azathioprine linked to skin cancer

Researchers at the University of Dundee, Queen Mary University of London, and the Wellcome Sanger Institute have linked the drug azathioprine, commonly used for a variety of conditions, with skin cancer development.

Researchers at the University of Dundee, Queen Mary University of London, and the Wellcome Sanger Institute have linked the drug azathioprine, commonly used for a variety of conditions, with skin cancer development. The drug, which sold under the brand names Imuran (Casper Pharma) and Azasan (AAI Pharma), is used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and vasculitis, and prevent organ rejection in transplant patients. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, identified it as having a "strong case for an association" to the mutational signature found in cases of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. In a mutational signature analysis of cSCC tumors, the researchers found a new mutational signature, Signature 32, was correlated to the use of azathioprine. By identifying the molecular landscape of cSCC, researchers believe potential treatments can be developed. "Although patient numbers were small and these findings should be verified in a larger independent cohort, this molecular study provides a strong case for an association between this novel mutational signature and long-term azathioprine use," said Gareth Inman, MD, part of the research team at Dundee and now at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute and the University of Glasgow.