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Australian researchers find everyday anti-stress drugs can help slow down breast cancer spreading

Major medical breakthrough as Australian researchers find everyday anti-stress drugs can help stop the spread of breast cancer

  • Scientists found beta-blocker within anti-stress drugs slow the spread of cancer
  • Discovered the stress experienced in patients activates ‘fight-or-flight’ response
  • The response increased metastasis, the spread of cancer cells through the body 
  • Trialled anti-stress drugs on patients and found it helps slow spread of cancer 

Australian researchers have discovered everyday anti-stress drugs could help slow the spread of breast cancer. 

Researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University found Propranolol, a beta-blocker used to treat cardiac disease and anxiety disorders, could decisively increase the odds of surviving the disease, which kills about 3,000 Australian women a year.  

Associate Professor Erica Sloan and her team found stress experienced by breast cancer patients ‘activates the fight-or-flight’ response.

This response then increased metastasis, the spread of the cancer cells through the body.

Scientists found that beta-blocker Propranolol within anti-stress drugs can slow the spread of cancer cells in women diagnosed with breast cancer (stock)

‘We harnessed that knowledge by repurposing existing drugs. Our goal was to see if we could stop cancer cells spreading in the body,’ Professor Sloan said. 

‘We found that beta-blockers – which halt the stress response – stopped the cancer invading.’

The team conducted a clinical trial with 64 patients with some given an oral beta-blocker, some a placebo, for seven days prior to surgery to remove the tumour. 

Following a week of beta-blockers, the scientists found in was effective in stopping the cancer’s spread.

‘This study showed how reducing the stress response supports patients during cancer diagnosis and treatment, which is a very stressful time,’ senior anaesthetist and PhD student Dr Jonathan Hille said.

‘These findings allow us to think about how we can use beta-blockers at the same time as existing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, to improve survival rates for patients with cancer.’ 

The researchers are now developing a larger clinical trial. 

Following a week of beta-blockers, the scientists discovered its effect in stopping the spread of the cancer (stock - 3D illustration of breast cancer)

Following a week of beta-blockers, the scientists discovered its effect in stopping the spread of the cancer (stock – 3D illustration of breast cancer)

BREAST CANCER 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women. 

Approximately 20,168 Australians were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020.

That is an average of 55 people everyday. 

The latest statistics show that the five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011-2015 was 90.8 per cent.

A snapshot of breast cancer in Australia 

  • The number of people being diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia is increasing; however the number of deaths from breast cancer is decreasing. 
  • The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age.
  • The risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer by age 85 is 1 in 7 for women and 1 in 670 for men.
  • The average age of first diagnosis of breast cancer for women is 62 years. 
  • In 2020, approximately 80 per cent of new cases of breast cancer will develop in women aged 50 or above.
  • The chance of surviving at least five years (five year relative survival) has increased from 74.0 per cent in 1986-1990 to 90.8 per cent in 2011-2015. 

 Source: Breast Cancer Network Australia

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