Blood pressure pills could ease cancer treatment

Clinical urologist Ghulam Nabi. Picture: TSPL
Clinical urologist Ghulam Nabi. Picture: TSPL
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A type of blood pressure medication could help protect men from the “distressing” side effects of radiotherapy for prostate cancer, a according to new study by Scottish medical scientists.

Radiotherapy is an established treatment for cancer confined to the prostate gland. However, the treatment can cause “collateral damage” to other parts of the colorectal region, causing bleeding, increased lavatory trips, and the danger of other colorectal cancers.

In the case of prostate cancer that often brings about these distressing side effects

Ghulam Nabi

During the research, clinical urologist Ghulam Nabi and colleagues in the School of Medicine at Dundee University analysed outcomes for more than 300 patients who had undergone radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

They found that a group of patients who were already taking angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) blood pressure tablets – such as captopril – showed a lower risk of the complications arising after treatment, in comparison to patients who were not on the same medication.

Where complications did occur, they did so for shorter periods of time.

Some 102 of the patients examined were hypertension sufferers who were taking ACEIs at the time of their radiotherapy. Follow-up examinations in the ensuing seven years found no follow-on side effects in 68 of them, and only low levels in another 30.

In contrast, for those patients not taking ACEIs, whether hypertension sufferers or not, the numbers showing side effects were significantly higher, with upwards of 30 per cent of patients showing medium-to-serious side effects.

Mr Nabi, Tayside’s top prostate cancer surgeon, said today/yesterday: “It has always been an unfortunate side effect of radiotherapy that it can cause collateral damage to healthy tissue and in the case of prostate cancer that often brings about these distressing side effects.

“What we have found is that men on these specific high blood pressure tablets had a lower incidence of damage. These findings could have a huge influence for patients facing radiotherapy for prostate cancer as currently there is no effective cure for these side effects.

“These results improve our understanding of the side effects and can also help us to explore the mechanisms behind it.”