Combining Heart and Cancer Drugs?

Cancer therapies could be combined with cardiac glycosides

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) A class of medicines called cardiac glycosides are used to treat heart failure and irregular heartbeats. Scientists say these same drugs could also serve as cancer vaccines.

Research has found that a class of heart medications may help cancer patients live longer.

"Be sure your doctor knows all medications you're taking."

These are the findings of Laurie Menger of the Institut Gustave Roussy and Université Paris-Sud and her colleagues in France.

Earlier clinical trial data showed that individuals living with cancer who were taking digoxin for heart conditions lived longer than patients who weren't taking the drug.

Digoxin is sold under the brand names of Cardoxin, Digitek, Lanoxicaps and Lanoxin.

Researchers have learned that, when given in combination with chemotherapy agents, these heart drugs transform the dead cancer cells into vaccines which activate the immune system to fight off the tumor.

The whole process is known as triggering "pre-mortem" stress reactions in the cancer cells. Once this occurs, the immune system is able to take over and control the cells.

Based on these results, the researchers are planning to test the drugs in patients who have head and neck cancer.

This research was published July 18, in Science Translational Medicine.

Funding for this research came from grants from the Ligue Nationale contre le Cancer, Agence Nationale pour la Recherche, European Commission, China Scholarship Council, Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale, Institut National du Cancer, Cancéropôle Ile-de-France, Fondation Bettencourt-Schueller, and the LabEx Immuno-Oncology.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
July 16, 2012
Last Updated:
January 17, 2013