Researchers at Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax, N.S., say they have made a significant discovery in the fight against cancer.
Doctors have found that the drugs ranitidine and famotidine may enhance the body’s immune system and reduce the growth of tumours.
“We know that these drugs could potentially affect the immune system but it had never before been looked at in the cancer setting,” said Dr. Jean Marshall, form the university’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology.
The drugs in question are found in both Zantac and Pepcid AC: two common, over-the-counter medications that are widely available.
In lab tests involving mice, researchers found that using the drugs daily inhibited the development and spread of cancer.
“For this particular project, we’ve re-engineered the DNA of mice to get breast cancer, we’ve re-engineered the DNA of mice to get lung cancer and we’re doing it with prostate cancer,” said Dr. Paola Marignani, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Pathology. “We’re really very excited to be able to take something that’s already out there, available, cost effective and then put it into the animal models.”
Doctors say these particular drugs are already regularly used and safe. In fact, chemotherapy patients often use both Zantac and Pepcid AC to help ease nausea related to chemotherapy.
“We didn’t know that these drugs would have such a profound effect in preventing the developing cancer in our experimental models,” said Dr. Marshall.
Early experiments were so successful doctors hope to start the next phase of research – human testing – within six to eight months.
“The idea is to take individuals who don’t have a whole lot of other health problems, healthy people in the community, who would be willing to take these medications, which has very few side effects for about six weeks, so we can examine different parts of their immune system before and after they take the medication,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, Viral Immunologist.
The project has already secured $450,000 in funding from the Canadian Cancer Society to continue research for the next three years.