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(Last updated 9/19/11)

New Research Blog Available Here!!


NOTE TO PRODUCERS: Ohio State University has opened a new broadcast studio with Vyvx and ISDN technology, allowing us to provide quick connectivity to university researchers.  To schedule an expert, please call Joe Camoriano, (614) 378-6478, camoriano.1@osu.edu.
Previous stories pertaining to the research of Professor Glaser:

"Breast Cancer Patients' Persistent Fatigue Is Real, May Actually Speed Up Aging," 4/6/11.

"Childhood Abuse, Adversity May Shorten Life, Weaken Immune Response Among The Elderly," 8/9/10.

 
"Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known To Promote Inflammation," 1/11/10.

"Stress, Anxiety Can Make Allergy Attacks Even More Miserable And Last Longer," 8/11/08.

"Aromatherapy May Make You Feel Good, But It Won't Make You Well," 3/3/08.

"Stress Hormone May Hasten The Progression Of Certain Blood Cancers," 11/19/07.

"Chronic Stress Can Steal Years From Caregivers' Lifetimes," 9/18/07.

"Omega-3 Fatty Acids Affect Risk Of Depression, Inflammation," 3/28/07.

"Stress Substantially Slows Human Body's Ability To Heal," 11/21/05.

"Mechanism Found That Weakens Caregivers' Immune Status," 6/26/03.

"Former Caregivers Still Show Psychological Ills Years After Caregiving Ends," 12/12/01.

"Hypnosis May Prevent Weakened Immune Status, Improve Health," 9/24/01.

"Even Happy Experiences Can't Reduce Stress, New Research Shows," 8/2/00

"Researchers Learn How Stress Slows Wound Healing," 7/26/99

"Stress May Increase Susceptibility To Infectious Disease," 7/23/99

"New Hypothesis Proposed for Cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," 10/28/98

"Stress Slows Healing Of Dental Wounds By 40 Percent," 6/17/98

"Stress of Breast Cancer Surgery, Diagnosis Weakens Immune System," 1/20/98

"Marital Arguments Lead To Weakened Immune Systems In Older Couples," 8/14/97

"Psychological Stress Can Slow The Rate of Wound Healing," 4/22/97

"Effects of Arguments Linger Long After Fights End, Study Shows," 4/22/97.

"High Stress Weakens Immune Function In Breast Cancer Patients," 3/11/97

 

[Embargoed until 1 PM ET Tuesday, September 20, 2011 to coincide with publication in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.]

BLOOD PRESSURE DRUGS MAY LENGTHEN LIVES OF MELANOMA PATIENTS

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Beta-blocker drugs, commonly used to treat high blood pressure, may also play a major role in slowing the progression of certain serious cancers, based on a new study.

A review of thousands of medical records in the Danish Cancer Registry showed that patients with the skin cancer melanoma, and who also were taking a specific beta-blocker, had much lower mortality rates than did patients not taking the drug.

The report, published in the current issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, summarized the work of a team of researchers at Ohio State University’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR) and the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Ronald Glaser
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Eric Yang
Stanley Lemeshow

If the results are confirmed in a planned clinical trial, this might be an additional adjunct treatment for cancer patients facing a poor prognosis.

At the center of this research is the fact that certain molecules that play important roles in the immune system also appear to promote both tumor growth and metastasis, the shedding and spreading of tumor tissue to other parts of the body.

“The work started with some earlier studies where we discovered that certain tumor cells had receptors to two specific catecholamine stress hormones – epinephrine and norepinephrine,” explained Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the IBMR.

“When either of these hormones bind to the tumor cell receptors, it stimulates the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), interleukin-8 (IL-8), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and certain matrix metalloproteins – all molecules known to stimulate blood flow to tumors, enhancing their growth, and promoting metastasis.”

The earlier studies first used tissue from a nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell line, and later from both multiple myeloma and melanoma cell lines.  When treated with the beta-blocker propranol, all cells stopped producing the tumor-enhancing molecules.  Similar work by other scientists showed similar results with ovarian cancer tissues.

Then the team turned to Stanley Lemeshow, a professor and dean of the College of Public Health at Ohio State.  Lemeshow had previously partnered with colleagues in Denmark and knew that country had a vast database of patient information, including records of all Danish cancer patients for decades, as well as pharmacy records of all drugs prescribed for those patients.

“These databases can be linked together and by doing so, you have the ability to find patients with melanoma who had previously been prescribed beta-blockers,” Lemeshow said.

The researchers looked at melanoma patients who had taken beta-blockers and at those who hadn’t to determine whether the former group exhibited longer survival.

“Among patients diagnosed with melanoma, those who were taking beta-blockers when their cancer was diagnosed experienced longer survival than those patients who weren’t taking the drug,” Lemeshow said.

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“This drug is relatively inexpensive.  It isn’t chemotherapy so you don’t lose your hair or get sick.  It doesn’t kill the cancer cells, but it may slow the disease. This would be adjunct therapy that could be provided in addition to the normal chemotherapy patients receive.”


“Their chance of surviving for a specified number of years improved by 13 percent.”

When the researcher looked at all causes of death among melanoma patients – not just melanoma – their chances of survival were improved by 19 percent.

“We’re talking about survival time, here.  They simply lived longer.”

Eric Yang, an associate member of the IBMR and assistant research professor of internal medicine, said that epinephrine and norepinephrine may stimulate, or induce, the production of these tumor-promoting molecules.

“The idea is that if you treat a patient with beta-blockers, then you can counteract ‘epi’ and ‘norepi’ and lower the amounts of those molecules that induce tumor progression, perhaps halting it,” Yang said.

That’s the idea behind the clinical trial the researchers hope to begin soon.

“That’s what has us so excited,” Glaser explained.  “This drug is relatively inexpensive.  It isn’t chemotherapy so you don’t lose your hair or get sick.  It doesn’t kill the cancer cells, but it may slow the disease.

“This would be adjunct therapy that could be provided in addition to the normal chemotherapy patients receive.”

“So far, we’ve found an association between beta-blocker use and survival time for melanoma patients,” Lemeshow said.  “The clinical trial should give us even stronger evidence.”

The research was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute and Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.  Also working on the research were Gary Phillips, Gregory Lesinski and Rebecca Jackson, all at Ohio State; Henrik Toft Sorensen, Sussie Antonsen and Anders Riis of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

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Contact:   Ronald Glaser, (614) 293-0178; glaser.1@osu.edu
Written by Earle Holland, (614) 292-8384; Holland.8@osu.edu