A new study has found that certain blood pressure drugs help ovarian cancer patients live longer lives. The discovery has given field experts hope of developing new, more efficient treatments.
A team of researchers from the University of Texas looked at more than 1.400 women who had ovarian cancer and noticed that those who took a type of blood pressure drugs known as beta blockers usually managed to fight the disease longer.
And women who were using older, non-selective beta blockers had even better results than women who were using newer, selective beta blockers. On average, the former group lived for about eight (8) years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, whereas women who were not taking any kind of beta blockers only lived for about three (3) years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
However, it’s important to note that the findings are highly interpretable. The research team did not directly conduct any experiments, but merely reviewed some patient records. This is not an approach that can provide proof that a certain treatment is efficient.
If the researchers are to gather undeniable proof that beta blockers really help women survive ovarian cancer longer, they will need to conduct clinical trials where they randomly assign beta blockers and standard treatments to ovarian cancer patients, and get positive results that reinforce the current theory.
Dr. Anil Sood, senior researcher and field expert from the University of Texas’ Anderson Cancer Center (Houston), gave a statement saying that “You need to be very cautious about retrospective data like this. We still need clinical trials”.
And Dr. Christina Annunziata, researcher from the US National Cancer Institute and field experts who co-wrote the editorial accompanying the study, agrees. She gave a statement of her own talking about how doctors first need to know for sure whether or not it’s safe to put women with ovarian cancer on beta blockers.
Dr. Annunziata explained that “If you don’t have high blood pressure and you take a drug that lowers blood pressure, [then] that could be dangerous”. This is the reason why she is taking part in two (2) early trials meant to test the safety of the new potential treatment.
If these early trials provide the research team with positive results, this would go a long way to helping ovarian cancer patients. But there would still be many questions that experts would have to investigate – which particular women would survive longer if they took beta blockers? What would the ideal doses look like? At what point in their treatment should ovarian cancer patients be given beta blockers?
Ovarian cancer is one of the most dangerous cancers one can develop. It’s rarely discovered when it’s in an early stage, and it spreads far beyond the ovaries. The American Cancer Society informs that only about 45 percent (45%) of ovarian cancer patients are still around five years (5) after receiving their diagnosis.
Dr. Sood has one possible explanation for why beta blockers may prove to be effective in treating the disease. His theory is that they block the effects of epinephrine (also referred to as adrenaline), a stress hormone that helps ovarian tumors grow and spread.
The findings were published earlier this week, on Monday (august 24, 2015), in the journal Cancer.
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