The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine along with Prairie View A&M University, have recently uncovered that there are some cancer drugs which could be used as an effective treatment for pulmonary hypertension (PH). These findings have just been published in Science Advances.
PH is a form of high blood pressure which happens within the blood vessels leading from the heart into the lungs. It puts immense pressure on the heart, and can ultimately cause heart failure and death. This condition affects people of all ages but tends to impact females more than males.
There are treatments for PH, however they are not cures. These therapies relax the blood vessels or dilate them, providing relief from symptoms and minimizing the speed of disease progression.
For example, Remodulin is a medication which is delivered by a pump that lives under the skin.
Allison Dsouza is a nurse and PH patient who uses this medication. In just a few months after starting this new medication, she was able to participate in a race, play polo, and take college courses.
However, Allison explains that although the treatment has been phenomenal for her, the treatments aren’t perfect. The treatment itself can cause immense pain, and there is a high risk of infection. Additionally, she mentions that for some people, the treatments don’t even work.
There is a strong need for a medication with minimal side effects which will combat the root cause of PH, not simply mitigate its symptoms.
These researchers used both experimental and computational strategies to test treatments for PH. They used an algorithm to understand which cancer drugs may be beneficial. This platform studied over 800 cancer cell lines.
This study ultimately demonstrated that this algorithm could be helpful for finding treatments for other conditions, not just PH.
The researchers had hypothesized, that due to some overlapping features between PH and many cancers, data from studies of cancer may be able to help predict which cancer treatments could also target the root cause of PH. Each drug was ranked based on how it was able to match gene networks specific to PH.
In addition to this matching technology, two other compounds which were highly ranked were utilized. These included BRD-2889 and I-BET762. Both of these were found to modulate the PH gene networks.
A treatment in the very same class of I-BET762 is currently being used in a PH clinical trial. This new study has shown more information about this treatment than researchers understood in the past. BRD2889 is a compound that is derived from pepper plants. It has anti-cancer properties but hasn’t yet been studied in PH.
This research team studied BRD2889 in a mice model of PH. In this model, symptoms of PH went away. They hope to move onto clinical trials soon following these promising results.
Additionally, they will continue to investigate new potential treatments.
Repurposing drugs is so beneficial because it significantly decreases the time it takes to get a treatment to patients. This is particularly beneficial for rare disease treatments which are more expensive and time demanding than other research ventures.
This research team is hopeful for the benefits their algorithm can provide the rare disease community.
You can read more about these findings in PH here.