Beta-blockers shown to cut breast cancer deaths

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Common drugs prescribed for high blood pressure and anxiety may provide a new lifeline for women with resistant breast cancer, research suggests.

Scientists say there is growing evidence to show that beta-blockers can stop breast cancer spreading and save lives.

A British team is now planning a large-scale study that could pave the way for clinical trials in a year’s time.

The latest research, on more than 400 UK breast cancer patients, confirms earlier results indicating that beta-blockers can aid survival.

Last year findings published in the journal Oncotarget showed that women taking the drugs before an operation for breast cancer were less likely to have died several years later.

The new study showed that taking beta-blockers led to a 70 per cent reduction in death rates over a 10-year period.

Scientists believe the drugs inhibit a key molecular pathway involved in the growth and spread of breast cancers fuelled by the sex hormone oestrogen.

These tumours make up the vast majority of breast cancers, and are sensitive to the drug tamoxifen which is often given after surgery to prevent recurrence. However, in some 50 per cent of cases the disease becomes resistant to tamoxifen treatment. It may then spread lethally to other parts of the body.

“We are hypothesising that maybe some of these patients could have their cancer controlled by beta-blockers,” said Cancer Research UK scientist Dr Des Powe, who heads the research.

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