The findings were published in journal of Nature Communications.
Calcium channel blockers are currently used to treat hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, but their potential use in blocking cancer cell metastases has not been previously reported.
By screening already approved drugs, the team led by Postdoctoral Researcher Guillaume Jacquemet and Academy Professor Johanna Ivaska from University of Turku in Finland discovered that calcium channel blockers can efficiently stop cancer cell invasion in vitro.
According to researchers, identification of anti-hypertension drugs as potential therapeutics against breast and pancreatic cancer metastasis was a big surprise.
“The targets of these drugs were not know to be present in cancer cells and therefore no one had considered the possibility that these drugs might be effective against aggressive cancer types,” said lead study author Johanna Ivaska
They focused their efforts on understanding how cancer cells move and invade surrounding tissue.
The team has identified that aggressively spreading cancer cells express a protein called Myosin-10 which drives cancer cell motility.
Myosin-10 expressing cancers have a large number of structures called filopodia. They are sticky finger-like structures the cancer cells extend to sense their environment and to navigate — imagine a walking blind spider, explains Dr Jacquemet.
They found that calcium channel blockers target specifically these sticky fingers rendering them inactive, thus efficiently blocking cancer cell movement.
This suggested that they might be effective drugs against cancer metastasis. However, at this stage much more work is required to assess if these drugs would be efficient against cancer progression.