A doctor writes a prescription.

Drugs established for other health conditions may provide cancer benefit

Drugs that control blood pressure and lower cholesterol, among others, nay help patients derive greater benefit from cancer treatment, but study findings have left researchers reassessing their next moves.

By Darlene Dobkowski, MA, CURE

Several existing drugs, including those that treat high blood pressure and high blood sugar levels, are being investigated alongside other treatments in patients with cancer to see if they provide a survival benefit, although more research is needed to determine whether this is a possibility.

There may be some overlap on what cardiometabolic drugs — those that focus on dysfunctions related to heart disease, diabetes and chronic renal failure — treat and certain aspects of cancer. For example, drugs that control blood pressure, such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, may alter a patient’s vasculature, which may lead to improved therapy responses. In addition, some common risk factors in breast cancer can also increase one’s risk for heart disease, such as higher insulin levels and higher inflammation.

As it stands, some experts would frown upon using these cardiometabolic drugs for potential cancer survival benefit.

“I would not recommend metformin or aspirin for the purpose of treating breast cancer based on large trials that have tested the impact of these drugs on cancer recurrence and survival in women,” said Dr. Jennifer A. Ligibel, director of the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, in an interview with CURE ®.

Despite this recent bump in the road in researching cardiometabolic drugs in patients with cancer, other experts remain hopeful. Read more …