Study: Common beta blockers can extend ovarian cancer patients' lives
- In a retrospective study of women with ovarian cancer, researchers found that taking nonselective beta-blockers increased survival by a median of four years.
- Ovarian cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer among women. Based on 2015 estimates, 21,000 women will be diagnosed this year, and another 14,000 women will die from ovarian cancer.
- The women were taking beta blockers during chemotherapy to treat high blood pressure or another heart problem—not as part of their cancer treatment.
To start off, let's identify the non-selective beta blocker that was most often taken: propranolol. This study was interesting not only because it identified a possible link between beta blockers and increased survival in ovarian cancer patients—but also because of the vast outcomes differences in patients who took selective versus non-selective beta blockers.
Overall, patients who took any type of beta blocker had a median survival of 47.8 months, versus 42 months for those not taking beta blockers. More dramatically, patients taking non-selective beta blockers had a median survival of 94.9 months, compared with 38 months for those taking selective beta blockers.
While the study, which was conducted at the National Institutes of Health, has signficant implications, researchers warn that a prospective study is needed before beta blockers become a part of the treatment paradigm. The study results are published in the latest issue of Cancer.