PDE5 inhibitors such as Viagra® and Cialis® have been identified as having the potential to be repurposed for use in cancer treatment

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The class of drugs currently prescribed to treat male erectile dysfunction has been flagged for its potential to be included in new cancer drug trials, in a new clinical study published today in the open-access journal, ecancersciencemedical.

The article is the latest publication from the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project, an international collaboration between the Anticancer Fund, Belgium, and GlobalCures, based in the United States.

With the high cost of new cancer drugs being a huge political issue facing governments around the world, the Cancer Fund’s mission is to identify currently available (and lower-cost) existing drugs that have untapped potential to save lives. .

In their paper, the researchers identified that selective phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors have the potential to be used in new drug trials. These PDE5 inhibitors are a class of drugs that includes sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil (more commonly known by their brand names Viagra®, Cialis® and Levitra®).

“In many ways, sildenafil is the ultimate reuse success story,” says Dr. Pan Pantziarka of the Anticancer Fund. “It was originally developed for angina, repurposed for erectile dysfunction, then again for pulmonary arterial hypertension, and now it has the potential to be repurposed as a cancer drug again.”

Like many other drugs that the Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project has featured in publications in ecancersciencemedicalPDE5 inhibitors exhibit a wide range of mechanisms of action in different types of cancer, such as glioblastoma multiforme – a rare disease where clinically meaningful advances are desperately needed.

“Checkpoint inhibitors have dramatically changed the landscape of oncology, but there remain significant challenges in terms of increasing the number and duration of responses,” says Pantziarka.

“Emerging evidence, summarized in this article, suggests that PDE5 inhibitors may be a mechanism to achieve this.”

“It would be ironic if the key to improving outcomes for some of the most expensive drugs in oncology came from repurposing some of the cheaper non-oncology drugs.”

The paper also explores the question that finding new agents capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier is a challenge that severely limits the range of drugs available to treat brain tumors. There is some evidence that drugs that are not currently licensed for the treatment of cancer, such as PDE5 inhibitors, are able to increase permeability to improve drug delivery to brain tumors, potentially opening up the leads to new therapeutic options for patients.

The article includes a wide range of data, preclinical and clinical, has been summarized and presented to demonstrate that these commercially available and widely used PDE5 inhibitors are very good candidates for reuse as anticancer agents.

These inexpensive, low-toxic drugs have the potential to be included in current and emerging gold standard treatments in oncology.

The researchers hope that this article will bring the potential of this class of drugs to the attention of more clinicians and researchers engaged in clinical trials. A number of small, early phase trials are underway, but the ReDO group believes it is time to begin much larger efficacy trials, so that the promise of these cheap repurposed drugs can be fully realised.

Previous papers from the ReDO project have explored how inexpensive and common drugs such as beta-blockers and antifungal remedies can be ‘repurposed’ and used as part of cancer treatments.

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Material provided by ecancersciencemedical. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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