Scientists have discovered how a family of enzymes used in the development of drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction may enhance the effect of chemotherapy in the treatment of esophageal cancer, according to new research from the UK .
In the first results of the research program published this Tuesday, June 21 in Cell Reports Medicinescientists have discovered that the enzyme inhibitor mechanism used primarily in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, can reverse resistance to chemotherapy and significantly reduce the development of cancerous tumors of the esophagus.
Hope lies in the PDE5 inhibitor, a substance that inhibits the action of the enzyme phosphodiesterase located in the smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels that supply the cavernous bodies of the penis in particular.
Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) is an enzyme that naturally slows down the mechanism of erection. When this enzyme is inhibited, the erection is prolonged: this is what drugs against erectile disorders like Viagra, the most famous of them, promote.
Such cooperation between this treatment for erectile dysfunction and chemotherapy would therefore play a fundamental role in the metastatic evolution of the tumor.
Chemotherapy resistance in esophageal cancer is influenced by the “tumor microenvironment”, the area surrounding the tumor. This is made up of molecules, blood vessels and cells such as cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF), which are important for tumor growth. This “tumor microenvironment” feeds the tumor and can act as a protective cloak, preventing treatments like chemotherapy from having an effect.
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However, it appears that high levels of PDE5 were found in the fibroblasts taken from within the tumor microenvironment, suggesting to the researchers that PDE5 would be an effective target for the treatment of esophageal cancer cells. Clinical trials will now continue to develop an appropriate care protocol in the coming years.
Because according to the first results, PDE5 inhibitors combined with chemotherapy could shrink some esophageal tumors more than chemotherapy alone, by attacking resistance to chemotherapy, corresponding to one of the main challenges of treatment. esophageal cancer. But above all, this breakthrough could pave the way for the use of PDE5 inhibitors in other types of cancer.
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In all likelihood, if a treatment results from this program, it could help a significant number of patients worldwide. On average, between 8,000 and 9,000 people are diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year in France.