Women who take beta-blockers for high blood pressure and
are diagnosed with breast cancer may have better outcomes
than women who do not take beta-blockers, according to
findings from two recent studies. Results from both studies
were recently published in the Journal of Clinical
Beta-blockers are a class of drugs used to treat heart
conditions and high blood pressure. Studies have indicated
that beta-blockers may help control growth and spread of
breast cancer, possibly due to their ability to control
stress hormones. Two current studies have further
investigated this association.
One study, conducted by researchers from M.D. Anderson
Cancer Center, reviewed 1,413 patients with breast cancer
who had been treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy
(chemotherapy prior to surgery) between 1995 and 2007.
Outcomes including complete response, relapse-free
survival, and overall survival of those taking
beta-blockers were compared with outcomes of those not
Of the participants, 102 used beta-blockers. Rates of
complete response among those using beta-blockers were not
significantly different from complete response rates among
non beta-blocker users. Beta-blockers use, however, was
associated with significantly better relapse-free survival
when the researchers accounted for age, race, disease stage
and grade, receptor status, lymph node involvement, and
other factors affecting disease outcome. Overall survival
was not significantly improved among beta-blocker users.
Patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer who
took beta-blockers had improved relapse-free survival but,
like other patients, not significantly improved overall
Another study of beta-blockers and breast cancer survival
was conducted by researchers from Ireland. Women
diagnosed with Stage I to IV breast cancer between 2001 and
2006 were identified in a national cancer registry. Women
who took beta-blockers in the year before they were
diagnosed were matched and compared with women not taking
beta-blockers. Two types of beta-blockers with different
mechanisms were evaluated, propranolol and atenolol. The
researchers assessed risk of tumor progression and spread
and time to death from cancer.
Patients who used the beta-blocker propranolol had a
significantly lower rate of death from breast cancer than
their counterparts who didn't used beta-blockers (9% versus
22%, respectively). Atenolol, however, was not associated
with any improved outcomes.
These two studies suggest that beta-blockers could possibly
improve outcomes among women with breast cancer, including
those with difficult-to-treat triple-negative disease.
However, it is far too early and beta blocker use should
not be administered to women with breast cancer at this
time until further research is done.
Melhem-Bertrandt A, Chavez-MacGregor M, Lei X, et al.
Beta-blocker use is associated with improved relapse-free
survival in patients with triple-negative breast cancer.
Journal of Clinical Oncology [early online publication].
May 31, 2011.
Barron TI, Connolly RM, Sharp L, et al. Beta blockers and
breast cancer mortality: a population-based study. Journal
of Clinical Oncology [early online publication]. May 31,