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Blood pressure drug may prevent cancer spread

The secondary effects of various blood pressure medications have given the world a remedy for erectile dysfunction and relief from migraine headaches. There could be another on the horizon: blood pressure medications which appear to prevent the spread of cancer cells. Researchers at Turku University in Finland say that calcium channel blocker meds may one day be used to prevent the spread of cancer cells in humans.

Cancer cells under a microscope. File photo. Image: Turun yliopisto

Academy of Finland researcher Johanna Ivaska - who worked alongside cellular biology researcher Guillaume Jacquemet of the University of Turku - says that commonly-used blood pressure medications called calcium channel blockers can prevent the spread of cancer cells.

The research, she says, was the result of a broad analysis of research.

"It's expensive and time-consuming to develop new medications, and that's why the results are very hopeful," Ivaska says.

Calcium channel blockers, or calcium antagonists, treat conditions in patients suffering from ailments like high blood pressure, chest pain and Raynaud's disease, a blood vessel disorder.

Ivaska says that she and her research colleagues have for years been trying to understand why cancer cells spread and metastasise in humans.

Key "sticky" myosin X protein

A few years ago the researchers noticed that particularly aggressive forms of cancer spread with the help of the protein called myosin X (or myosin 10).

According to Jacquemet the protein's filaments have "hooks" or "sticky fingers" which allow cancer cells to develop, and the calcium channel blockers appear to attack those particular cells.

"It was a very surprising result," Jacquemet says.

Animal testing of the findings has already begun. Jacquemet says that tests on the efficacy of calcium channel blockers on human cancer cells could begin in a few years.