Beta-blockers cut cancer spread

Blood pressure drugs may be able to reduce the ability of breast cancer to spread around the body, researchers have told a European conference. A joint UK and German study found that cancer patients taking beta-blockers had a lower risk of dying. The drugs may block hormones that trigger the spread of cancer cells. However, experts stressed that more evidence from bigger studies would be needed before the drug could be given as part of routine treatment.

The latest research, presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona, builds on earlier laboratory studies which suggest that the ability of cancer cells to increase in number and spread is boosted by the presence of stress hormones. Beta-blockers attach themselves to the same receptors on cancer cells used by these hormones, potentially reducing their ability to stimulate the cell and trigger spread.

To test this theoretical cancer-fighting ability, Dr Des Powe, from Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, in collaboration with Professor Frank Entschladen from Witten University in Germany, looked at three groups of breast cancer patients, a total of 466 people. The first group had high blood pressure, also called hypertension, and were taking beta-blockers, the second had high blood pressure, but were taking something different for it, while the third had no blood pressure problems. In the 43 who were taking beta-blockers, there was a significant reduction in both cancer metastasis, and new tumours within the breast. Overall they had a 71% lower chance of dying from breast cancer compared with the other groups.

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