Acid Reflux Medications May Improve Cancer Outcomes

  • According to the American Cancer Society one in four deaths in the United States is due to cancer.  In 2014 alone it is estimated that there will be more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer diagnosed and over half a million deaths from cancer.  This is a staggering number to confront but new research is looking into "repurposing" old medications to help wage this war against cancer.

    This month some interesting developments have been published with regard to the use of some medications for acid reflux.  In several studies acid reflux medications were associated with anti-cancer properties.  This is a new area for acid reflux medications that may prove beneficial in the battle against various cancers not just those associated with untreated acid reflux disease.

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    Ecancermedicalscience published a paper this month about the antacid cimetidine.  Cimetidine belongs to the class of drugs known as H2 blockers.  Cimetidine and other H2 blockers work by blocking the histamine receptors in the acid producing cells of the stomach thus making the gastric contents less acidic.  According to the research cimetidine also proved beneficial in colorectal and gastric cancer, melanoma, and renal cell carcinoma treatment (1).

    Another promising study published in Cancer Prevention Research looked into the effects of both PPIs and H2 blockers in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).  Those patients taking the PPI had a 45 percent decreased risk of death than the patients not on PPIs.  H2 blockers were also associated with a 33 percent decreased risk of death than patients who were not on the medications (2).  

    While it is not clear exactly why PPIs and H2 blockers have this effect on cancer investigating the different mechanisms involved will likely be the next step for future research.  Before these medications can be "repurposed" for cancer fighting more information is definitely needed but the implications are promising. 


    While it may be tempting, do not start a new medication or change your current medications without first consulting your physician. Only your physician can accurately asses the overall risk vs. benefit of a medication or any potential for damaging interactions with your current treatment.

Published On: December 22, 2014