Research Shows That Hypertension Drugs Could Help Fight Cancer

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A recent study conducted by Ludwig Cancer Research has discovered that certain molecules commonly used for treating hypertension can potentially enhance the immune system’s ability to target cancer cells. This research, published in Nature, suggests that these findings could eventually lead to significant improvements in the efficacy and practicality of cancer immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy targets 30%-40% of cancer cases

Immunotherapy has limited effectiveness in treating cancers, targeting only 30% to 40% of cases, according to Benoît Van den Eynde from the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Oxford. Resistance to immunotherapy in many cancers is attributed to insufficient reactivity in T lymphocytes.

The study revealed that repurposed hypertension drugs hold promise for combating these immunotherapy-resistant cancers. The immune system relies on T lymphocytes, white blood cells that identify and eliminate foreign cells and pathogens, to protect against diseases.

Surprisingly, T lymphocytes don’t recognize cancer cells because of 5the specific marker called tumor antigens found on the surface of the cells. However, Thierry Boon and other researchers discovered these tumor antigens that can be targeted to destroy cancerous cells. The findings opened the way for cancer immunotherapy, where T cells are employed to target and eliminate cancerous cells. Although the adoption of immunotherapy has grown, it is important to note that its efficacy varies depending on the cancer type and patient.

Anti-hypertensive drugs have molecules that can fight cancer

In a recent study led by Jingjing Zhu in Van den Eynde’s laboratory, it was found that certain anti-hypertensive drugs called α2-adrenergic receptor (α2AR) agonists have an impact on the behavior of macrophages responsible for engulfing and breaking down debris from pathogens, including cancer cells. Macrophages notify T cells of any abnormalities by presenting suspicious antigens, which can trigger an immune response.

Researchers discovered that α2AR agonists have anesthetic and hypotensive effects and activate macrophages as sentinels. This stimulation enhances the reactivity and effectiveness of T cells in attacking cancer cells. Interestingly, this effect was observed in cancer models resistant to standard immunotherapy.

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