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Blood Pressure Drug Could Treat Cancer

Update Date: Oct 02, 2013 12:12 PM EDT

A new study is reporting that a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure might be capable of fighting cancer. The study found that when this particular drug is taken with conventional cancer treatment, the combination could extend a cancer patient's life expectancy. This new finding by researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital could change how cancer patients are treated in the future.

For this study, the researchers used mouse models to test the effects of losartan specifically on prostate cancer. Currently, only around five percent of prostate cancer patients live at least five years largely due to the fact that only one in ten cases is operable. Due to the short life expectancy, the researchers wanted to observe whether or not combining chemotherapy and losartan would help extend prostate cancer patients' lives.

Losartan is considered a safe drug to use for blood pressure. The drug works by relaxing the blood vessels and getting them to dilate so that blood can flow better. In the trial using mouse models, the researchers discovered that losartan helped deliver chemotherapy to the tumor more efficiently by increasing the blood flow in and around the cancer. The researchers reported that the mice that received the combined treatment ended up living longer than mice that only received chemotherapy.

"This interesting study in mice shed 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," Dr. Emma Smith from Cancer Research UK said according to BBC News. "The fact that these drugs are already widely used to treat high blood pressure will hopefully cut down the amount of time it will take to test their potential in treating cancer but they may not be safe for all patients or when combined with other cancer treatments, so we need to wait for the answers from clinical trials which are already under way."

The researchers plan on recruiting human volunteers to test the effectiveness of this combined treatment option. The study was published in Nature Communications.

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