Beta-blocker drug therapy reduces secondary cancer formation in breast cancer and improves cancer specific survival

Oncotarget. 2010 Nov;1(7):628-638. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.197.


Laboratory models show that the beta-blocker, propranolol, can inhibit norepinephrine-induced breast cancer cell migration. We hypothesised that breast cancer patients receiving beta-blockers for hypertension would show reduced metastasis and improved clinical outcome. Three patient subgroups were identified from the medical records of 466 consecutive female patients (median age 57, range 28-71) with operable breast cancer and follow-up (>10 years). Two subgroups comprised 43 and 49 hypertensive patients treated with beta-blockers or other antihypertensives respectively, prior to cancer diagnosis. 374 patients formed a non-hypertensive control group. Metastasis development, disease free interval, tumour recurrence and hazards risk were statistically compared between groups. Kaplan-Meier plots were used to model survival and DM. Beta-blocker treated patients showed a significant reduction in metastasis development (p=0.026), tumour recurrence (p=0.001), and longer disease free interval (p=0.01). In addition, there was a 57% reduced risk of metastasis (Hazards ratio=0.430; 95% CI=0.200-0.926, p=0.031), and a 71% reduction in breast cancer mortality after 10 years (Hazards ratio=0.291; 95% CI=0.119-0.715, p=0.007). This proof-of-principle study showed beta-blocker therapy significantly reduces distant metastases, cancer recurrence, and cancer-specific mortality in breast cancer patients suggesting a novel role for beta-blocker therapy. A larger epidemiological study leading to randomised clinical trials is needed for breast and other cancer types including colon, prostate and ovary.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma / complications
  • Carcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma / mortality
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists