HOUSTON, Aug. 24 (UPI) — In a retrospective review of medical records, researchers found that ovarian cancer patients also taking beta blockers for heart disease had longer survival rates than those who were not taking the drugs.
Beta blockers are used to tamp down the body’s response to stress, which often leads to the heart pumping harder and faster. The drugs are often used to prevent secondary heart attacks and hypertension. Stress pathways that are protected by the drug also are involved with tumor growth and spread — which is why researchers have been looking at their effects on the disease.
“Beta-blockers treat a variety of conditions, such as heart disease, high-blood pressure, glaucoma and migraines. They target a receptor protein in heart muscle that causes the heart to beat harder and faster when activated by stress hormones,” said Dr. Anil Sood, a professor of Gynecologic Medical Oncology and Cancer Biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in a press release. “Our research has shown that the same stress mechanisms impact ovarian cancer progression, so these drugs could play a new role in cancer treatment.”
The researchers looked at records for 1,425 who’d been treated for epithelial ovarian cancer sometime between 2000 and 2010. Of those, 269 had received beta blockers during their treatment.
The research showed the median overall survival rate increased from 42 months to 47.8 months with any beta blocker. Within the group that received them, those who were given a nonselective beta antagonist, or NSBB, survived a median of 94.9 months, compared with 38 months when given a beta-1-adrenergic receptor selective agent, or SBB. With patients who had hypertension, the longer median survival rate was seen with NSBB users surviving 90 months versus 38.2.
More tests will need to be done on the specific effects of beta blockers on ovarian cancer, as well as which specific drugs work best for different types of patients, researchers said.
“The stratification of patients by beta-blocker use and selectivity in this study makes it unique among all other studies examining the impact of these drugs on cancer,” Sood said. “It also builds on the mounting evidence that beta-blockers may become a key treatment component for many patients in the future.”
The study is published in Cancer.