The use of already-approved drugs to treat new or alternative diseases has proved to be beneficial in medicine, because it reduces both drug development costs and timelines. Most drugs can be used to treat different illnesses, due their mechanisms of action are not restricted to one molecular target, organ or illness. Diverging from its original intent offers an opportunity to repurpose previously approved drugs to treat other ailments. This is the case of sildenafil (Viagra), a phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitor, which was originally designed to treat systemic hypertension and angina but is currently commercialized as erectile dysfunction treatment. Sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil are PDE5 inhibitors and potent vasodilators, that extend the physiological effects of nitric oxide and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) signaling. Although most of the biological implications of these signaling regulations remain unknown, they offer a large therapeutic potential for several diseases. In addition, some PDE5 inhibitors’ molecular effects seem to play a key role in different illnesses such as kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. In this review, we discuss the molecular effects of PDE5 inhibitors and their therapeutic repurposing in different types of cancer.
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