Researchers found that the mechanism by which cancer grows involves the growth of blood vessels
A team of researchers has discovered that certain cancer drugs can also successfully treat hypertension, offering an alternative to sufferers not suited to current available treatments.
The team found that the mechanism by which cancer grows involves the growth of blood vessels.
But by using cancer drugs to inhibit this growth they discovered they could also control blood pressure.
Senior investigator, Dr Anton Wellstein, professor of oncology and pharmacology at the School of Medicine and a researcher at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Centre in the US, said the findings were extremely encouraging.
He explained: “It’s rare that a single class of drugs can be used for such different conditions, but that is what our study strongly suggests.
“The finding could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment because although a number of high blood pressure drugs are now available, they work by different mechanisms that are not suited for all patients.”
It is hoped that after further trials the cancer drugs could one day be used to tackle high blood pressure too.
High blood pressure, the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, affects more than one billion people worldwide and kills 9.4 million people every year.
Researchers has discovered that certain cancer drugs can also successfully treat hypertension
The benefit of lowering blood pressure in patients with hypertension is already well established. But uncertainty remains about whether to treat people with lower blood pressure and which drugs to use.
In the UK, more than one in four adults now have high blood pressure, many without even knowing it.
The condition directly increases the risk of heart disease which remains the UK’s biggest killer, claiming around 160,000 lives a year.
The new study, published in the journal Hypertension, found that fibroblast growth factors, or ‘FGFs’, involved in increasing blood vessel growth so that cancer can grow, also have a damaging effect on blood pressure.
The scientific team, from Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, found that just as oncologists use FGF inhibitors to control cancer, clinicians may also be able to use the same drugs to regulate blood pressure and control disease associated with hypertension.
High blood pressure affects millions and leads to heart attacks and strokes
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It’s rare that a single class of drugs can be used for such different conditions, but that is what our study strongly suggests
The development of FGF inhibitors is based in part on their ability to inhibit tumour growth of blood vessels.
But the study also found they had a similarly positive effect on high blood pressure. Prof Wellstein’s team carried out extensive tests to determine the link between the cancer drugs and hypertension.
And in experiments in mice, the inhibitors proved effective in lowering blood pressure.
Prof Wellstein added: “FGF can control how sensitive the blood pressure regulation.
“That tells us that if a person has hypertension, it is possible to target FGF signalling because it contributes to maintenance of high blood pressure by altering sensitivity to a major vasoconstrictive hormone, angiotensin II.”
Last night, research bodies gave a cautious welcome to the findings of the new study.
Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “An inherited form of high blood pressure involves a family of molecules called fibroblast growth factors (FGFs). The researchers studied the effects of FGFs and regulatory proteins on blood pressure in mice.
Heart disease remains the UK’s biggest killer, claiming around 160,000 lives a year
“This study gives us a better understanding of the mechanism behind inherited high blood pressure, and in doing so may help us reveal new, potential targeted treatments for high blood pressure in the future.
“Currently, drugs which target FGFs are used to treat people with cancer. Time will tell if these drugs have wider therapeutic implications than first thought and could be used to treat high blood pressure.”
But Prof Wellstein also urged caution, adding: “Of course, we can’t say that this tactic will work in humans with hypertension, but it will be straightforward to test this rather surprising possibility to target a new mechanism of blood pressure control.”