In the current analysis, the researchers found that even among patients with hypertension, a longer median overall survival was observed among users of NSBBs compared with nonusers (90 months compared to 38.2 months).

Beta-blockers treat a variety of conditions, such as heart disease, high-blood pressure, glaucoma, and migraines. These agents target a receptor protein in heart muscle that causes the heart to beat harder and faster when activated by stress hormones. Dr. Sood said this new study demonstrates that the same stress mechanisms impact ovarian cancer progression.

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He added that beta-blocker users in the study presented at a higher stage of disease, had an increased average body mass index, and were more likely to be hypertensive.

Even though these factors are associated with decreased survival, those who received beta-blockers had either equivalent or improved overall survival. Further examination revealed that NSBB users had improved overall survival regardless of the presence of such prognostic factors or comorbidities.

It is theorized that beta-blockers could be used as an adjuvant therapy during surgical recovery and chemotherapy to decrease tumor growth. Beta-blockers may play a role in wound healing and metastasis and they may also reduce cancer-related psychological distress in newly diagnosed patients, according to the study authors.

L. Stewart Massad Jr, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, said these new study findings are quite promising but not definitive. He said the studies that are already underway may help better identify patients with other types of cancer who could benefit from beta-blockers.

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“It is too early to define the clinical applicability of the research. Beta-blockers may help with other cancers, but we do not have data to conclude that,” Dr. Massad told Cancer Therapy Advisor.

“Psychological distress in cancer survivors and individuals under treatment is complex. Beta-blockers hold great promise as one of several tools, including other psychoactive medications and direct, compassionate, individual counseling by clinicians, friends, and professional counselors. A cancer diagnosis will always be stressful, and we continue to explore new ways to help those afflicted to cope with stress.”


  1. Watkins JL, Thaker PH, Nick AM, et al. Clinical impact of selective and nonselective beta-blockers on survival in patients with ovarian cancer. [published online ahead of print August 25, 2015]. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29392.