Tuesday, October 04, 2011


Interesting. Is it true that a simple, common drug like beta blocker, which is used widely in management of hypertension or ischemic heart disease, apart from other diseases, like hyperthyroidism, stop the spread of breast cancer spread, thereby improving prognosis.
Dr Des Powe of Queen's Medical Center, Nottingham, in collaboration with Prof Frank Entschalen of Witten U Germany, looked into this question. Obviously it was just a small pilot trial. They followed 466 Ca Breast patients on treatment, and divided them into 3 groups. Group 1 had hypertension and were on beta blockers ( about 43 patients ), Group 2 were hypertensives, but were not on beta blockers, and group 3 were non-hypertensives. The researchers found that Group 1 had 71% less death when compared to group 2, and 3. I am sure we all can see that the numbers are small. Even that, a 71% reduction in mortality is a large difference, and cannot be easily ignored. They have just presented their paper at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona. I read it from BBC news, and have yet to see it in print.
Then comes the reason why? Is it that beta blockers stop the spread of the malignant cells, or is it that despite the spread, the patients live longer? or it is that the beta blockers somehow, make the breast cancer cells more susceptible to detection and so eradication with other agents? Is this phenomena peculiar to breast cancers only, or it is true for all cancers? or hormone dependent cancers?
There are so many questions, and of course, it calls for a large randomised control trial. The problem is that the older beta blockers are all off patent and the newer beta blockers are all beta blockers with some alpha agonist effects ( so not strictly a beta blocker ). So it will have to be funded by public funds which will obviously be limited and slow. I am sure the large Cancer research Foundation, UK will tae up the project as it does have wide ranging implications as cancer is fast catching up with heart disease as the number 1 killer in the western Hemisphere. More money seem to go into cancer research now then cardiovascular disease.
Anyway, if I have Ca Breast and am not allergic to beta blockers, I may be tempted to start myself on a beta blocker ( metoprolol is so widely available, or even propranolol ), while awaiting further clinical data. The downside to beta blockers besides allergies, is lethargy and loss of libido. I have Ca Breast, not a big give away.

1 comment:

msforty5 said...

your post made me want to switch from calcium channel blocker back to beta blocker right now .. as preventive step ;)