Pancreatic cancer: It’s the fourth highest cause of cancer deaths in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that over 32,000 people will succumb to pancreatic cancer this year alone in the U.S. Plus, only a scant five percent of people with this type of cancer will live past a year of diagnosis. While these are somber statistics, researchers are finding new ways to help combat this devastating disease.
The newest discovery? Two types of blood pressure medications could help halt the growth and spread of this deadly cancer: ACE inhibitors and AT1R blockers.
Thanks to a new study out of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, researchers have found that these two common blood pressure drugs can help reduce the development of blood vessels that feed pancreatic tumors. This process — known as “angiogenesis,” which is the formation and differentiation of blood vessels — goes awry when a tumor is present in a person’s system.
This isn’t the first time that ACE inhibitors and AT1R blockers have been tagged due to their potential cancer- fighting properties. Previous studies have shown that both have been linked to lower incidences of cancer progression. Both drugs have also been shown to have the ability to inhibit the pancreas hormone “angiotensin II,” which also plays a harmful role in the development of pancreatic cancer. Basically, this hormone creates a vascular factor, known as VEGF, which promotes the growth of blood vessels in various cancers.
The main point you need to know about VEGF is that when It’s in high amounts in the body, a poor cancer prognosis as well as an early relapse of the disease are more likely to occur. So, in the study, what the researchers did is look at how both ACE inhibitors and AT1R blockers worked in relation to VEGF in both invasive pancreatic cancer and normal pancreatic tissue.
In the test tube study, they found that both drugs helped slow down the process of angiogenesis. Of course, further animal and subsequent human studies into this effect will have to be conducted, but the researchers do note that this finding may lead to both ACE inhibitors and AT1R blockers could become part of a potential strategy to help control the growth and spread of pancreatic cancer.
According to a lead researcher in the study, Hwyda Arafat, MD, PhD, “High VEGF levels correspond with lymph node metastasis and worse prognosis in many cancers. High levels of angiotensin II might mean high levels of VEGF and pancreatic cancer. We have a treatment to block it.”
“Patients have chemotherapy and radiation sometimes before surgery. I would imagine this would be useful either for unresectable tumors or after surgical removal of the pancreatic cancer. It might be used in maintenance,” she added.
Calling the findings “very promising,” Arafat also noted the safety of the drugs, which have already been well tested, and the fact that the test tube findings could translate to an animal study quickly. We’ll keep you posted.