Viagra may have the potential to fight cancer, according to a new study. The clinical research by Ecancermedicalscience found that the class of drugs currently prescribed to treat male erectile dysfunction can be included in the new trials for anti-cancer drugs.
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 include drugs more commonly known by their brand names – Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.
“In many respects, sildenafil is the ultimate repurposing success story,” said researcher Pan Pantziarka. “It was originally developed for angina, repurposed for erectile dysfunction and then again for pulmonary arterial hypertension, and now it has the potential to be repurposed again as an anti-cancer drug.”
PDE5 inhibitors showed a wide range of mechanisms of action in different cancer types, such as glioblastoma multiforme – a rare disease where clinically meaningful advances are desperately needed.
“Checkpoint inhibitors have radically altered the landscape in oncology, but there remain significant challenges in terms of increasing the number and duration of responses,” Pantziarka explained.
“Emerging evidence suggests that PDE5 inhibitors may be one mechanism for achieving this.”
The paper also explored the issue that finding new agents that are able to cross the blood-brain-barrier is a challenge, which severely limits the range of drugs available to treat brain tumours.
There is some evidence that drugs not currently licensed for cancer treatment like the PDE5 inhibitors, are able to increase permeability so that drug delivery to brain tumours is improved – thereby potentially opening the door to new therapeutic options for patients.
These low-cost, low-toxicity drugs show potential to be included with current and emerging standard of care treatments in oncology.
The study appears in the open access journal Ecancermedicalscience.