Beta-blockers 'cut cancer spread'

Patients treated for hypertension had 71 per cent lower breast cancer death risk.

Breast cancer and beta-blockers
Breast cancer and beta-blockers

Treatment with beta-blockers may reduce the spread of breast cancer, research suggests.

Researchers from Queen's Medical Centre at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust showed patients treated for hypertension with beta-blockers had a 71 per cent reduced risk of dying from breast cancer.

The authors, speaking at the seventh European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona, say they are the first to investigate the effect of beta-blockers on breast cancer patients.

Previous studies had suggested beta-blockers reduce levels of the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine, which increase cell proliferation and migration.

Des Powe and colleagues placed 466 patients with breast cancer into three groups. Two groups were treated for hypertension - one with beta-blockers, another with other medication. A third group did not have hypertension and therefore took no medication.

Forty-three patients took beta-blockers and these patients showed reductions in distant metastasis and local recurrence compared with other groups.

The researchers suggest the specific action of beta-blockers to prevent stress hormones activating cancer cells was responsible for the survival benefits, rather than protective effects of reduced hypertension.

The authors said: 'It is reasonable to speculate, therefore, that some non-hypertensive women with breast cancer will respond favourably to beta-blocker treatment, though doses and side-effects would need to be investigated in clinical trials.'

The researchers suggested the finding could be used to target patients who have an increased risk of developing secondary cancers.

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