Washington D.C. [USA], Dec. 29 : A team of researchers has found that a combination of a diabetes medication and hypertension (high blood pressure) drugs can effectively combat cancer cells.
The study, published in Science Advances, also reported that specific cancer cells respond to this combination of drugs.
The findings indicate the cocktail of these two drugs is effective in a wide range of cancers.
The team led by Michael Hall from the Biozentrum University of Basel in Switzerland made an unexpected discovery: The antihypertensive drug syrosingopine potentiates the anti-cancer efficacy of metformin.
Apparently, this drug combination drives cancer cells to programmed "suicide".
Metformin lowers not only the blood glucose level, but also blocks the respiratory chain in the energy factories of the cell, the mitochondria. The antihypertensive drug syrosingopine inhibits, among other things, the degradation of sugars.
At higher doses, the antidiabetic drug inhibits the growth of cancer cells but could also induce unwanted side effects. Therefore, the researchers screened over a thousand drugs for whether they can enhance the anticancer action of metformin.
"For example, in samples from leukemia patients, we demonstrated that almost all tumor cells were killed by this cocktail and at doses that are actually not toxic to normal cells", said first study author Don Benjamin.
"And the effect was exclusively confined to cancer cells, as the blood cells from healthy donors were insensitive to the treatment," Benjamin added.
In mice with malignant liver cancer, enlargement of the liver was reduced after the therapy. Also the number of tumor nodules was less - in some animals the tumors disappeared completely.
Thus, the drugs interrupt the vital processes which provide energy for the cell. Due to their increased metabolic activity and rapid growth, cancer cells have a particularly high energy consumption, which makes them extremely vulnerable when the energy supply is reduced.
"The data from this study support the development of combination approaches for the treatment of cancer patients," Benjamin noted.