Beta blockers ‘may stop breast cancer spreading’

Cancer experts are to carry out a major study to see if commonly used blood pressure drugs cut the risk of breast cancer spreading. Data from 800 patients has already shown those previously given beta blockers had half the chance of their cancer spreading as women who had not.

Study will look at about 30,000 patients, and will report next year. If that too shows benefits from the medication, further research in which breast cancer patients would be treated with beta blockers, would follow. Doctors cannot move straight to this kind of study because they need to have more evidence there is a beneficial effect of taking beta blockers first.

Breast cancer spreading to other parts of the body is the biggest cause of death from the disease. It is thought that about 30% of breast cancers spread, yet these account for up to 90% of all deaths from the disease. The early work on beta blockers found that the women who had taken them had a 71% reduced risk of a cancer-related death. Another study has also identified the biological process whereby beta blockers stop cells moving – and therefore stop cancer from spreading. They do this by stopping the action of a molecule on the cell surface called the noradrenergic receptor. If this is blocked, cells cannot move to other parts of the body. Read more…

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