C2D2 Research 3a - Antiepileptic drugs and cancer survival: a population-based study

Project: Other projectOther internal award

Project Details

Layman's description

A major problem with cancers is that cells often spread to distant sites in the body to form secondary tumours. This process is called metastasis. In order to metastasise, cancer cells need to move and invade through surrounding tissue. Metastasis is rarely curable and it is the leading cause of cancer deaths. If we could slow or stop this initial spread of cancer cells, we might be able to reduce, or even prevent metastasis. Sodium channels are drug targets for the treatment of epilepsy. Sodium channels are also present in cancer cells, where they regulate movement and invasion. We have found that the antiepileptic drug phenytoin reduces invasiveness of breast cancer cells. Thus, sodium channels might be useful targets for inhibiting metastasis. Our hypothesis is that antiepileptic drugs will reduce metastasis, so that cancer patients who have epilepsy and are taking these drugs will live longer than those who don't take antiepileptic medication. We will test this hypothesis by analysing data from the large QResearch database of patient records. If our project is successful, we plan to undertake a large, multicentre, randomised, double blind clinical trial to prove whether or not antiepileptic drugs reduce metastasis and therefore improve patient survival.

Key findings

WJB invited to give seminar at Gordon Research Conference on Bioelectricity, July 2014.
VGSC-inhibiting anti epileptic drug use strongly associates with reduced survival in cancer patients.


Caroline Fairhurst, Statistician, YTU, Heath Sciences
Chiedu Ufodiama, HYMS Medical student


Brackenbury WJ, MRC senior non-clinical fellowship "Sodium channels, cell adhesion, migration and metastasis." £2,397,382. 17/1/16-16/1/23. PFACT ID 18921.

Systematic Review of Voltage Gated Sodium Chanel Inhibitors in Breast, Colorectal and Prostate Cancer. Martin F, Ufodiama C, Rodriguez-Lopez R, Watt I, Bland M, Brackenbury WJ. In preparation for submission to Front. Pharmacol.

Sodium channel-inhibiting drugs and survival of breast, colon and prostate cancer patients: a population-based study. Fairhurst C, Watt I, Martin F, Bland M, Brackenbury WJ. Submitted to Sci Rep.
Effective start/end date1/01/14 → …