Heart drug also works as prostate cancer treatment
A DRUG used to treat heart failure may help to combat prostate cancer, research suggests.
Digoxin, made from the foxglove plant, is normally given to patients with weak hearts and heart rhythm abnormalities.
But an unusual study combining laboratory and population research has identified it as a potential prostate cancer therapy.
US scientists began by screening more than 3,000 compounds already approved for medical use to see if any inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. Digoxin emerged as a front runner among 38 promising candidates.
A team of epidemiologists then looked for evidence of the drug combating prostate cancer in a patient health study.
The researchers looked at the medical records of around 47,000 men aged 40 to 75 who were monitored from 1986 to 2006. Among the group, around 5,000 new cases of prostate cancer were reported.
Men who regularly took digoxin were 24pc less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who did not use the drug.
Using digoxin for more than 10 years cut the risk of prostate cancer by half.
The research is reported in the journal 'Cancer Discovery'.
Further work will determine whether the drug or others like it should be tested as prostate cancer treatments.
Digoxin alters biological pathways for sodium and potassium in heart cells. Scientists believe that it may act on similar pathways in prostate cancer cells.