A commonly-used blood pressure drug may improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, a US study has shown.
Mice survived longer when administered with losartan
A team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that the drug losartan widens blood vessels in tumours allowing more chemotherapy to reach the cancer.
The study was published in Nature Communications and was conducted by Dr Rakesh Jain and his team from the Steele Laboratory for Tumor Biology at MGH.
The test involved treating mice with pancreatic cancer with a combination of conventional cancer-beating methods and a dose of losartan. It was hoped that the treatment would improve life expectancy and survival rates for pancreatic cancer, one of the most fatal forms of the disease.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst survival rates in the UK and currently only 5% of patients will survive beyond five years. This figure is so low because only 10% of people with disease can be operated on.
Dr Jain said: "Increasing tumour blood flow in the absence of anti-cancer drugs might actually accelerate tumour growth, but we believe that combining increased blood flow with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or immunotherapy will have beneficial results.
"Based on these findings in animal models, our colleagues at the MGH Cancer Center have initiated a clinical trial to test whether losartan can improve treatment outcomes in pancreatic cancer."
The team from Massachusetts found that mice with breast or pancreatic cancer benefited from taking the normal amount of chemotherapy combined with losartan.
Dr Emma Smith of Cancer Research UK said: "This interesting study in mice sheds light on why drugs for hypertension might improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy, but we don't yet know if they work exactly the same way in people.”
Health insurance can give you access to new treatments not always available through the NHS, especially policies with comprehensive cancer care.
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