Clinical Study

Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO)—nitroglycerin as an anti-cancer agent

27 Aug 2015
Vidula Sukhatme, Gauthier Bouche, Lydie Meheus, Vikas P Sukhatme, Pan Pantziarka

Nitroglycerin (NTG), a drug that has been in clinical use for more than a century, has a range of actions which make it of particular interest in an oncological setting. It is generally accepted that the main mechanism of action of NTG is via the production of nitric oxide (NO), which improves cardiac oxygenation via multiple mechanisms including improved blood flow (vasodilation), decreased platelet aggregation, increased erythrocyte O2 release and decreased mitochondrial utilization of oxygen. Its vasoactive properties mean that it has the potential to exploit more fully the enhanced permeability and retention effect in delivering anti-cancer drugs to tumour tissues. Moreover NTG can reduce HIF-1α levels in hypoxic tumour tissues and this may have anti-angiogenic, pro-apoptotic and anti-efflux effects. Additionally NTG may enhance anti-tumour immunity. Pre-clinical and clinical data on these anti-cancer properties of NTG are summarised and discussed. While there is evidence of a positive action as a monotherapy in prostate cancer, there are mixed results in NSCLC where initially positive results have yet to be fully replicated. Based on the evidence presented, a case is made that further exploration of the clinical benefits that may accrue to cancer patients is warranted. Additionally, it is proposed that NTG may synergise with a number of other drugs, including other repurposed drugs, and these are discussed in the supplementary material appended to this paper.

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