Ovarian Cancer Canada

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Beta-blocker use linked to improved ovarian cancer survival. More trials needed to understand results.

Women with epithelial ovarian cancer who happened to be taking nonselective beta-blockers for hypertension survived longer than those who were not taking the drugs, according to a large multicenter retrospective study.

This finding was published online August 24 in Cancer.

The study involved 1425 women with ovarian cancer treated from 2000 to 2010. Median overall survival was longer for patients receiving any beta-blocker than for those who were not (47.8 vs 42.0 months; P = .04). But the survival benefit was greater for the women who received nonselective beta blockers than for those who received beta-1 adrenergic receptor selective agents (94.9 vs 38.0 months; P < .001).

“Over the last several years, we have been studying how chronic stress and sustained adrenergic activation can affect cancer growth and spread,” said senior researcher Anil K. Sood, MD, professor of gynecologic oncology and cancer biology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

“We have discovered that beta-2 and beta-3 adrenergic receptors are present on many ovarian cancer cells, and play quite important roles in promoting angiogenesis and maybe even the survival of cancer cells,” he told Medscape Medical News. “They also trigger signals inside the cancer cells that are relevant for growth. These observations led us to ask whether the drugs that block those kinds of receptors could be important for cutting off the growth-stimulating effects of stress hormones.”

“Beta-blockers are not ready for prime time. The current study was retrospective, so we cannot start prescribing beta-blockers for everyone. However, now we are looking at whether we can use them safely in patients who do not have high blood pressure,” Dr Sood reported. “Once the feasibility study is completed, we can start to look at beta-blockers’ effects on stress hormones, how they affect progression-free survival, and other factors. The retrospective data look interesting, but we need to do things carefully and take a measured approach.”

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2015 by in In the News, Research Updates.

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