Heart drug may be effective for managing certain cancers: study

December 14, 2011

Researchers at Queen's University have identified a new mechanism that could potentially explain why the body's immune system sometimes fails to eliminate cancer. The new findings shed light on the possible cause of immune resistance in cancer cells, and indicate that nitroglycerin, a relatively safe and low-cost drug used for more than a century to treat angina, may be effective for managing certain cancers.

"This discovery may lead to new approaches for the treatment of patients with certain forms of cancer," said Charles Graham, a professor in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences who lead the Queen's research team with Robert Siemens of the Department of Urology and Kingston General Hospital.

The researchers looked at the role that , or low in tissues, plays in the ability of some cancer cells to escape detection, and subsequent destruction, by the body's immune system.

They discovered that hypoxia in a cancer cell is linked to the overproduction of a key enzyme, ADAM10, which makes the cell resistant to attack by . However, when cells were treated with a nitric oxide mimicking agent such as nitroglycerin, hypoxic conditions were overcome and the lost their resistance to an immune system attack. The results indicate that nitroglycerin could potentially be used to boost the body's natural immune response to cancer.

The research leading to these findings is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CHIR) in partnership with the Terry Fox Foundation Training Program in Transdisciplinary .

The discovery builds on the Queen's team's 2009 findings related to the role of nitric oxide in suppressing tumour growth in prostate cancer. The researchers conducted the first-ever clinical trial using low doses of nitroglycerin to treat .

More than 10 patents have been issued to Queen's research discoveries involving the the use of nitroglycerin and similar compounds in cancer treatments. PARTEQ Innovations, the technology transfer office of Queen's, has licensed some of this intellectual property to Nometics Inc., a Queen's spinoff company, which is developing products and therapies based on this and related research.

Explore further: Researchers discover protein that could help prevent the spread of cancer

More information: Hypoxia Induces Escape from Innate Immunity in Cancer Cells via Increased Expression of ADAM10: Role of Nitric Oxide
Cancer Res Published OnlineFirst October 17, 2011; doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-2104

Related Stories

Researchers discover protein that could help prevent the spread of cancer

May 4, 2011
A protein capable of halting the spread of breast cancer cells could lead to a therapy for preventing or limiting the spread of the disease.

Queen's pioneers prostate cancer breakthrough

September 19, 2011
Scientists at Queen's University have pioneered a new combination treatment for prostate cancer. The treatment, which has been successful in phase one of trials, will now be tested for efficacy in a second phase.

Recommended for you

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.