An early study indicates that a common drug used for high blood pressure could improve the mental function of patients who undergo radiation for brain tumors.
The findings, released today by scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, were conducted on rats, and need further study in humans.
But the results show promise for a hypertenion treatment called losartan, which Merck & Co. sells as Cozaar. Given to rats in their water, the drug improved their cognative abilities after radiation.
Scientist believe the drug blocks protein components from being over produced during radiation. The components, called peptides, impair brain function.
“Sometimes the patient realizes that their short-term memory is fading or that they’ve lost the ability to multi-task," said Mike E. Robbins, a professor in the department of radiation oncology and one of the study's authors. "They just can’t keep thoughts in their brain. Sometimes it’s a friend or partner that realizes the impairment, but once it is noticed, it is not going to improve. Cognitive decline resulting from radiation is not stable. It is a chronic, progressive condition.”
If the findings bear out in human studies, the drug could improve the quality of life for many of the estimated 350,000 people in the United States battling brain tumors.