A new study has found that Viagra when combined with doxorubicin, a powerful anti-cancer drug, enhances its anti-tumour efficacy in prostate cancer and also lessens the damage to the heart.
For more than four decades, the chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin has been used to treat a number of human cancers, including that of the prostate.
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and VCU Massey Cancer Center researchers using a variety of powerful in vitro and in vivo approaches, have shown that a combination of Viagra, generically known as sildenafil, and doxorubcin significantly enhances the generation of reactive oxygen species that trigger cell death, or apoptosis, in prostate cancer cells.
They also observed that the combination did not harm the normal, healthy prostate epithelial cells.
"We believe sildenafil could be an excellent candidate for incorporation into cancer treatment protocols - with the potential of enhancing the anti-tumor efficacy, while protecting the heart against both short term and long term damage from doxorubicin," said principal investigator Rakesh C. Kukreja.
Kukreja's laboratory is one of the first to explore the area of preconditioning. This preconditioning effect was modelled in his lab by "pretreating" mice with doses of sildenafil, which also increases therapeutic levels of nitric oxide in the heart.
The study was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.