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article imageStudy: Viagra can fight melanoma

By Elizabeth Cunningham Perkins     Nov 9, 2011 in Health
The body's immune system usually activates beneficially against cancer, but the inflammation that results doesn't help; sildenafil, better known under its trade name, Viagra, neutralized chronic inflammation in mice with melanoma, DKFZ researchers found.
Immunologist Viktor Umansky at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and University Medical Center Mannheim, who led the study, explained the problem:
"We distinguish between two different types of immune response. On the one hand, cells of the immune system specifically attack tumor cells. On the other, however, almost every tumor causes in its microenvironment a chronic inflammatory immune response which suppresses the specific antitumor immunity. Our aim is to reduce the chronic inflammations and, thus, to support the immune system in actively fighting the cancer."
Studying chronic inflammation caused by malignant melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, using genetically-modified mice that develop a melanoma-like skin cancer spontaneously (or "melanoma mice"), Umansky's team detected inflammatory mediators, including interferon-γ and interleukin-1-β around the animals' tumors and in metastatic lymph nodes; but these immune mediators attracted myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) that inhibited the immune system's tumor-fighting T cells, the team found.
After sildenafil, a drug which had improved tumor immunity in previous experiments on animals, was added to the drinking water of a group of melanoma mice, they survived more than twice as long as the untreated mice, and their levels of activating molecules and numbers of tumor-specific T cells returned to normal, the researchers found.
Sildenafil calmed chronic inflammation in the melanoma environment and combated immunosuppressive MDSC activity, findings that are especially medically relevant because melanoma follows similar courses in mice and humans, Umansky and his team concluded.
In related news, Digital Journal reported in March, April and June on other new approaches and drugs for treating people with melanoma.
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