In many cases, orally administered PDE5 inhibitors – such as Cialis, Levitra, and Stendra – have been used to treat erectile dysfunction. These vasodilating drugs were found to be effective for erectile dysfunction when doctors were examining them for other conditions, such as high blood pressure, pulmonary hypertension, and angina. Now, shares Medical XPress, researchers are evaluating PDE5 inhibitors for a different cause: esophageal cancer.
Could a New Esophageal Treatment Be on the Horizon?
Over the last 40 years, treatment options and research into esophageal cancer have been somewhat stagnant. However, researchers recently sought to understand whether PDE5 inhibitors could improve chemotherapy efficacy for patients with esophageal cancer. This is especially important as researchers estimate that around 80% of people with this rare cancer do not respond well (or at all) to chemotherapy.
Within this particular study, researchers explored the tumor microenvironment – which includes cells and blood vessels – to understand how the microenvironment protects the esophageal cancer from chemotherapy. Through this, the researchers found that surrounding blood vessels and cells were expressing high PDE5 levels. Additionally, these high levels corresponded with poorer overall survival rates.
Next, the researchers began testing PDE5 inhibitors on esophageal tumor cells, which they found reduced abnormal fibroblast activity. The research team then sourced 15 tissue biopsies from patients with esophageal cancer. After growing tumors in the laboratory using these biopsies, researchers then tested the efficacy of PDE5 inhibitors and chemotherapy. They found that, largely, PDE5 inhibitors helped increase chemotherapy efficacy. In doing the same combination in mice models of esophageal cancer, the researchers also found that the treatment was relatively safe and well-tolerated.
While more research is needed, including clinical studies moving forward, this does highlight the potential promise of burgeoning esophageal cancer treatments.
If you want to learn more about this study, you can take a look at the findings published in Cell Reports Medicine.
About Esophageal Cancer
Your esophagus runs from the throat to the stomach and helps to move food to be digested. Esophageal cancer forms in the esophageal tissue, normally on the inner layer. As the condition progresses, the cancer may spread outward. Esophageal cancer is more common in males than females. Additional risk factors include smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, having acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and being obese. Symptoms can include:
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Chronic cough
- Unintended weight loss
- Esophageal obstructions
- Painful or difficult swallowing
- Chest pain or pressure
- Hoarse voice
- Bone pain
Learn more about esophageal cancer here.