A new study has suggested that high blood pressure drug losartan could help patients with noncancerous tumors of the nerves in the brain, according to Medical Xpress.

The study, led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Massachusetts Eye and Ear found that losartan may benefit patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), which is a hereditary condition associated with vestibular schwannomas – the tumors that develop from Schwann cells found in the nervous system.

The findings, published in the medical journal Science Translational Medicine, are especially important because there are no oral drugs approved for the treatment of vestibular schwannomas. The condition is currently treated with surgery and radiotherapy, which could carry risks of nerve damage.

The study’s co-senior author Dr. Lei Xu said, “Developing effective therapeutics to preserve hearing function in patients with NF2 is an urgent unmet medical need. The greatest barrier to managing NF2-related auditory impairment is our incomplete understanding of how schwannomas cause hearing loss.”

Dr. Xu is an investigator in the Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology within the MGH Department of Radiation Oncology.

Scarring or fibrosis in schwannomas is associated with hearing loss so the researchers wanted to test whether a drug can block this scarring.

Sold under the brand name Cozaar, losartan is an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) that is used to treat hypertension or high blood pressure.

The drug inhibits a component of the renin-angiotensin system, which regulates blood pressure and stimulates fibrosis and inflammation.

All ARBs, including losartan, have been found effective in reducing the accumulation of collagen in heart and kidney fibrotic disease.

In a mouse model of NF2, Dr. Xu and her team found that losartan had several effects on vestibular schwannomas and the brain.

They wrote, “It [losartan] reduced inflammatory signaling and swelling and thus prevented hearing loss, and it increased oxygen delivery to enhance the effectiveness of radiation therapy (which may help lower the radiation dose needed to control tumor growth and limit radiation-associated toxicities).”

Translating these findings into the clinical, Dr. Konstantina Stankovic examined patient samples and data.

Dr. Stankovic and her colleagues found that vestibular schwannomas associated with hearing impairment had more pronounced inflammatory signaling than tumors associated with good hearing.

They found that patients with vestibular schwannoma who took losartan or other drugs in its class experienced no progression in hearing loss, unlike patients on other or no antihypertensive drugs, according to Medical Xpress.

The study findings support the need for a human trial of losartan in patients with NF2 and vestibular schwannomas.

Dr. Stankovic said, “As one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for hypertension, the safety and low cost of losartan warrants rapid translation of our research to patients with vestibular schwannomas to try to prevent tumor-induced sensorineural hearing loss.” The article was published in Medical Xpress.