For more than a decade there have been theoretical discussions about the use of drugs commonly used to treat high blood pressure for use in the treatment of cancer – pancreatic cancer (ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas). And there have been some prior preliminary research studies.
Now comes a very intriguing and elaborate pre-clinical study involving cells and mice and the blood pressure medicine losartan. This medication is an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) which relaxes muscle cells and causes blood vessels to dilate. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School including Jain and colleagues published this study in the October 2013 issue of the journal Nature communications.
The authors find and postulate that losartan appears to be the right ARB to optimally increase vascular perfusion and oxygen delivery in the stroma laden environment of pancreatic adenocarcinomas. As a part of the study losartan was given together with chemotherapy drugs including 5-FU and doxorubicin, and appears to potentiate chemotherapy delivery to the tumor site in pancreatic cancer.
The authors end by postulating that drugs such as losartan (ARBs) might be considered for further evaluation as adjuvant to standard chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.
This is a highly provocative and promising pre-clinical finding that is deserving of further research.
Dale O’Brien, MD