A drug prescribed for epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and migraines when used along with a blood pressure medicine reversed some aspects of breast cancer in mice, according to a study which may lead to new interventions against the malignant disease.
Researchers from Georgetown University in the US increased susceptibility for breast cancer in the offspring of mice by feeding a high fat diet to their mothers during pregnancy.
However, study's findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports noted that the drug combination's effect increased breast cancer development in the offspring whose mothers had not been fed a high fat diet during pregnancy.
The researchers said one of the key drugs in the combination, valproic acid, inhibits histone deacetylase (HDAC), an important silencer of genes.
They said in contrast to mutations that permanently disrupt the normal functions of genes, the kind of modifications caused by the drug are reversible.
When valproic acid was combined with a blood pressure medication, hydralazine, the duo inhibited another critical gene regulator, DNA methyltransferase (DNMT), the study noted.
According to the researchers, previous research in people revealed that these two drugs can work in tandem to disrupt tumour growth.
"We believe that our research is the first to show that we can reverse some aspects of increased breast cancer risk found in offspring of mouse mothers fed a high fat diet during pregnancy," said Leena A. Hilakivi-Clarke study co-author from Georgetown University.
"This finding may have important implications in people because exposures in the womb to certain chemicals, or a mother's high fat diet, or being obese, can subsequently increase a daughter's breast cancer risk," she added.
According to the scientists, the findings raise several questions about the potential impact of diet on cancer risk.
Many fruits and vegetables, they said, have chemicals which react in the same ways as the HDAC- and DNMT-inhibiting drugs in the current study.
Some dietary compounds like folic acid, have opposite effects, the study noted.
Exposure to a high fat diet or hormone disrupting chemicals in the womb might be reversed by the consumption of foods high in DNMT and HDAC inhibitors, the scientists explained.
Those who have not been exposed to such chemicals might also gain a cancer protective benefit from consuming foods high in folic acid, they said.