Heart Drug may Help Treat Cancer

Nitroglycerin may boost immune system to eliminate cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) This versatile medication has been used for 150 years to treat angina and other heart ailments. Canadian researchers believe nitroglycerin may have another life-saving uses.

Nitroglycerin, a cheap and readily available medication, may help the body's immune system ramp up its ability to fight off and eliminate cancer. The drug could become an important new tool in managing certain cancers.

"Find out if existing drugs are being used in different ways to treat your condition."

Researchers at Queen's University in Ontario have uncovered the mechanism that could explain why the body's immune system doesn't attack cancer cells. Two professors led the study - Charles Graham, Ph.D. in the department of biomedical and molecular sciences and Robert Siemens, M.D. of the department of urology and Kingston General Hospital.

The team examined how low oxygen levels (hypoxia) in tissues helps some cancer cells remain invisible to the immune system, thereby escaping destruction. They found that hypoxia in a cancer cell is associated with ADAM10, a key enzyme that makes the cancer cell resist immune cell attack.

When cancer cells are treated with a nitric oxide agent like nitroglycerin, the hypoxia disappeared; the cells were no longer able to escape notice and were attacked by the immune system.

Bottom line - nitroglycerin might be able to bolster the body's natural immune response to cancer.

These findings support earlier research by the Queens team that found nitric oxide slowed the growth of prostate cancer.

This study was published in Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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Review Date: 
December 15, 2011
Last Updated:
December 15, 2011