But in this animal model, beta blockers managed to block the signals that were recruiting the immune cells, explained Ganz.
That same year, a study of more than 400 women in England and Germany found that women on beta blockers also had a lower likelihood of breast cancer recurrence.
The UCLA researchers decided to delve deeper, working with other scientists on a database of 1,779 women with early-stage breast cancer who had been treated at a large health maintenance organization in northern California and followed for about eight years in a study called Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE).
The women in the group who were taking ACE inhibitors had a 56 percent increased risk of a recurrence, although they had no increased risk of death.
The 14 percent of women who were taking propanolol -- the beta blocker considered most likely to have a protective effect -- had a reduced risk of recurrence. Because the number of women in this group was so small, the findings did not reach statistical significance, Ganz said, although "it was going in the right direction in terms of being protective."
The risk associated with taking both drugs together was somewhat in the middle.
The study was funded by the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
Noting the need for further studies, Ganz is working with researchers in Denmark and Canada to evaluate the same medications and their relationship to recurrence in much larger samples of breast cancer patients.
"We've always been addressing the treatment of the cancer itself but in this study [they were looking at whether] there is something in the host, in the milieu that makes us more susceptible to the development of a malignancy. Is there something we can actually change?" said Dr. Lauren Cassell, chi
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