Cold Remedy Could Potentially Treat Bladder Cancer

An injection of flufenamic acid prevented invasive cancer cell activities in mouse models.

A common cold suppression medication may be able to stop the spread of bladder cancer and reduce chemotherapy resistance, a recent study discovered.

Bladder cancer affects more than 20,000 individuals in Japan each year, and approximately 8000 people die from the disease. Non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 90%, but muscle-invasive cancer has a poor prognosis.

Individuals with muscle-invasive cancer are treated with drugs such as cisplatin, but tend to become resistant to treatment. Drug resistance often results in metastasis, according to a study published by Scientific Reports.

Scientists from Hokkaido University created a bladder cancer model by injecting human bladder cancer cells into mice. After 45 days, they found metastatic tumors in the lungs, liver, and bone of the mouse models.

The scientists then used microarray analysis, including more than 20,000 genes from metastatic tumors, and discovered a 3- to 25-fold increase of the metastatic enzyme aldo-keto reductase 1C1 (AKR1C1). They also found high levels of the enzyme in tumors removed from 25 human patients, meaning that these results had significance for humans, as well.

Anticancer drugs and an inflammatory substance around the tumor, such as interleukin-1β, were found to increase AK1C1 enzyme levels, according to the study. In the study, the scientists were also able to determine that AKR1C1 supports tumor-promoting activities, and can inhibit the efficacy of cisplatin, which leads to metastases.

They also made the surprising discovery that flufenamic acid is able to suppress the invasive activities of cancer cells, and prevent drug resistance.

Flufenamic acid is a nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drug that treats the common cold, and is an inhibitor of AKR1C1. Current cancer treatments with molecular-targeted drugs have put a strain on the healthcare system due to high costs, according to the study.

If confirmed in clinical trials, these findings could provide a promising and inexpensive way to prevent metastases in patients with bladder cancer.

“This latest research could pave the way for medical institutions to use flufenamic acid—a much cheaper cold drug—which has unexpectedly been proven to be effective at fighting cancers,” said researcher Dr Shinya Tanaka.