The use of beta-blockers for hypertension or heart disease may prolong survival in patients with epithelial ovarian cancer, a study led by investigators at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has reported.
The study’s findings, published online in Cancer in August, build on research indicating that stress hormones fuel the progression of ovarian and other cancers and show that beta-blockers stifle that effect.
“Beta-blockers target a receptor protein in heart muscle that causes the heart to beat harder and faster when activated by stress hormones,” said Anil Sood, M.D., a professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and the study’s principal investigator. “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 multi-institutional retrospective analysis, which included 1,425 ovarian cancer patients who received chemotherapy with or without beta-blockers (given for any reason) between 2000 and 2010, revealed that the median overall survival duration of the patients who received beta-blockers (48 months) was significantly longer than that of the patients who did not receive beta-blockers (42 months; p = 0.04). Of the 269 patients who received beta-blockers, 193 (71.7%) received adrenergic receptor-β1 selective agents (SBBs), and 76 (28.3%) received nonselective beta antagonists (NSBBs).
The patients who received NSBBs had a significantly longer median overall survival duration (95 months) than did the patients who received SBBs (38 months; p < 0.001). The NSBB results highlight the importance of the adrenergic receptor-β2 signaling pathway, which NSBBs target, in driving ovarian carcinogenesis.
“While these data are encouraging,” Dr. Sood said, “given the retrospective nature of the current study, additional studies are needed before these drugs are used for cancer indications. Feasibility studies are under way that will help guide additional studies.”
Two clinical trials, one led by MD Anderson (Study No. 2011-0800), are evaluating the combination of chemotherapy and the NSBB propranolol in patients with newly diagnosed epithelial ovarian carcinoma.
OncoLog, October 2015, Volume 60, Issue 10