Viagra's Role in Battling Melanoma

Viagra suppresses inflammation in melanoma cells and boosts the immune system response

(RxWiki News) Viagra has been a hit in the bedroom, but it may be just as big of a hit outside of it too. New studies have shown Viagra may help suppress melanoma.

In a recent animal study, researchers found that Viagra (sildenafil) helped mice with melanoma live longer. Viagra reduces inflammation and boosts the body's own defenses against melanoma.

"Consult your oncologist about new melanoma treatments."

A study by the German Cancer Research Center found that cancer cells use the immune system against itself. Inflammation is an automatic process of the immune system that cancer uses to develop and grow. White blood cells, called T Cells, are part of the body's defense that attack the tumor.

Cancer uses inflammation as a way to not only grow but to prevent T cells from working and attacking the tumor. In order to help combat tumor growth, the researchers needed to calm inflammation.

Scientists studying genetically-modified mice discovered proteins that attract cells, called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), which prevent the immune system from responding. Applying MDSC to healthy T cells caused the T cells to stop reproducing.

Mice who were given Viagra lived up to seven weeks longer than untreated mice. The number of T cells returned to normal in the mice who were treated with Viagra. The study found that Viagra fights off MDSC so the immune system and T cells can defend and protect against melanoma. 

The study concluded that Viagra helped stop inflammation in melanoma and helped battle against MDSC that prevented the immune system from responding.

Researchers are optimistic that this study can be applied to humans because the skin cancer of mice acts similarly to melanoma in humans. Viagra could be used to help improve treatment results by battling inflammation and restoring the body's natural defenses. Further studies are needed before Viagra can be used alongside traditional therapies.

This study was published in the October edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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Review Date: 
November 10, 2011