"Right now, we would not advocate that patients take beta blockers for this purpose, until these findings can be validated by prospective trials," Gomez said. "In addition, future studies will help us to understand if the mechanism that we propose is correct, and thus if beta blockers are indeed directly affecting the aggressiveness of this cancer or if these findings are due to the activation or inhibition of another pathway."
For one expert, the study raises more questions than it answers.
"It is unclear whether beta blockers need to be started before the cancer is found, or if they still have a utility once the diagnosis is made," said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
In addition, Horovitz wonders whether other drugs that block hormones might serve the same purpose.
One thing is clear, however, he added. People should not start taking beta blockers in hopes of preventing or controlling lung cancer, he said.
Horovitz did say he thinks trials testing whether or not beta blockers or other hormone-blocking drugs prevent the spread of lung cancer should be done.
Although the study found a link between beta blocker use in patients undergoing radiation therapy and increased non-small-cell lung cancer survival, it did not prove cause-and-effect.
For more on lung cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Daniel Gomez, M.D., assistant professor, department of radiation oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Jan. 9, 2013, Annals of Oncology<
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