In an early report, sildenafil, a drug normally sold under the brand name Viagra as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, has been shown to reduce massive, and sometimes deadly, growths on the faces of children suffering from lymphatic malformation, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday.
Lymphatic malformation is a disease that causes spongy cysts to swell and clog up the lymphatic system.
"Some of these kids have no other hope," said Dr. Al Lane, a pediatric dermatologist at Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. "The first child we treated, the malformation was so big and she was in such bad shape that there was nothing we could do for her. We gave her the sildenafil and we were blown away."
Sildenafil was first developed in the 1990s as a treatment for high blood pressure, but early clinical trials found that it was more useful in treating erectile dysfunction.
Lane said he gave the first patient, a 5-month-old girl, the drug to reduce high blood pressure that was threatening her life. As a side-effect, he noticed her growths had reduced in size.
Sildenafil was then tested on two other children with similar results.
"Honestly, I don't know what to make of this just yet," said Dr. Jonathan Perkins, an expert in vascular anomalies who treats children with lymphatic malformation at Seattle Children's Hospital.. "Is the drug safe? What does Viagra do to little kids? This is very interesting, and it needs further study."