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Beta Blockers May Slow Spread of Breast Cancer
Date:3/26/2010

Small study found they boost survival, but results are preliminary

FRIDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with blood pressure-lowering drugs known as beta blockers appears to help reduce the spread of breast cancer in women, a team of British and German researchers report.

The drugs are believed to work by preventing stress hormones from stimulating cancer cells. "Beta- blocker drugs compete with stress hormones and bind to the same target receptors [on a cellular level], but unlike stress hormones, do not activate cancer cells," said Dr. Des Powe, a senior healthcare research scientist at Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, in Nottingham, England.

Powe is due to present the findings Friday at the annual European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

Powe and his colleagues from the U.K. and Germany evaluated 466 cancer patients: 92 had received blood pressure-lowering medications and 43 of those 92, or nearly half, were on beta blockers at the time of their breast cancer diagnosis.

Those on beta blockers had a substantial reduction in the formation of distant cancers, or metastases, and of local recurrence. They had a 71 percent reduced risk of death from breast cancer during the study compared to those who were either taking other blood pressure drugs or weren't on any blood pressure medications. Those on beta blockers also had a 57 percent reduced risk of getting a secondary cancer.

"Our study was performed retrospectively, using patient notes [from women] that had received treatment in the late 1980s and 1990s," Powe said.

Other experts called the results interesting, but preliminary. "The concept of controlling tumor growth by preventing a stress or inflammatory response is not novel," said Dr. Cathie Chung, a medical oncologist and an assistant professor of oncology at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif.


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