Prediction of drug candidates for clear cell renal cell carcinoma using a systems biology-based drug repositioning approach

EBioMedicine. 2022 Apr:78:103963. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2022.103963. Epub 2022 Mar 25.


Background: The response rates of the clinical chemotherapies are still low in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). Computational drug repositioning is a promising strategy to discover new uses for existing drugs to treat patients who cannot get benefits from clinical drugs.

Methods: We proposed a systematic approach which included the target prediction based on the co-expression network analysis of transcriptomics profiles of ccRCC patients and drug repositioning for cancer treatment based on the analysis of shRNA- and drug-perturbed signature profiles of human kidney cell line.

Findings: First, based on the gene co-expression network analysis, we identified two types of gene modules in ccRCC, which significantly enriched with unfavorable and favorable signatures indicating poor and good survival outcomes of patients, respectively. Then, we selected four genes, BUB1B, RRM2, ASF1B and CCNB2, as the potential drug targets based on the topology analysis of modules. Further, we repurposed three most effective drugs for each target by applying the proposed drug repositioning approach. Finally, we evaluated the effects of repurposed drugs using an in vitro model and observed that these drugs inhibited the protein levels of their corresponding target genes and cell viability.

Interpretation: These findings proved the usefulness and efficiency of our approach to improve the drug repositioning researches for cancer treatment and precision medicine.

Funding: This study was funded by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Bash Biotech Inc., San Diego, CA, USA.

Keywords: Co-expression network; Drug repositioning; Systems biology; Target chemotherapy; ccRCC.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / pathology
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Computational Biology
  • Drug Repositioning
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Systems Biology


  • ASF1B protein, human
  • Cell Cycle Proteins