Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia are inching closer to understanding how common blood pressure medications might help prevent the spread of pancreatic cancer. They have found in the laboratory that one type of pressure-lowering drug called an angiotensin receptor blocker inhibits pancreatic cancer cell growth and causes cell death.
In earlier work in the laboratory, Hwyda Arafat, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Surgery at Jefferson Medical College, and her team showed that angiotensin receptor blockers may help reduce the development of tumor-feeding blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. Other studies have linked a lower incidence of cancer with the use of angiotensin blocking therapies. Such drugs, she says, may become part of a novel strategy to control the growth and spread of cancer.
One of these drugs—AT1R (Ang II type 1 receptor) blockers—inhibit the function of the hormone angiotensin II (Ang II) in the pancreas. The receptor is expressed in pancreatic cancer cells. Ang II increases the production of VEGF, a vascular factor that promotes blood vessel growth in a number of cancers. High VEGF levels have been correlated with poor cancer prognosis and early recurrence after surgery. Dr. Arafat’s research team has shown that AngII indirectly causes VEGF expression by increasing AT1R expression.
Dr. Arafat’s group explored the effects of blocking AT1R on the pancreatic cancer cell reproductive cycle and programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and the mechanisms involved. It found that blocking AT1R inhibited pancreatic cancer cell growth and promoted cell death. “This happens through inducing the activity of the gene p53, which controls programmed cell death, and also by inhibiting anti-cell death pathways such as those involving the gene bcl-2.”
Release date: April 14, 2008
Source: Jefferson University Hospitals