High blood pressure drugs may help treat colon cancer

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In a new study from the Victoria University of Wellington, researchers found a potential new source of help for colon cancer patients—medications used to treat hypertension, or high blood pressure.

They focused on medications currently used to treat high blood pressure: beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers.

Other research groups have previously reported lower incidence and improved survival of a range of cancers in patients who are already taking anti-hypertensive drugs.

In the study, the team used colon cancer tissues donated by consenting patients.

After studying these cells, they found that the cells had elevated levels of certain renin-angiotensin system (RAS) components, parts of a cell that are normally targeted by high blood pressure drugs.

Some of the high blood pressure drugs, particularly beta-blockers, impaired the function of these cells and reduced the levels of cancer stem cell markers.

The genes were less active after treatment than before treatment, possibly indicating that the cancer stem cells are specifically affected by the medications.

If further research does confirm this, the finding could eventually lead to a new treatment approach for colon cancer, using off-patent, low-cost, and commonly available oral medications with very low side effects.

The study was conducted by Dr. Matthew Munro et al.

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