Effect of beta-blockers on cancer recurrence and survival: a meta-analysis of epidemiological and perioperative studies

The biological perturbation associated with psychological and surgical stress is implicated in cancer recurrence. Preclinical evidence suggests that beta-blockers can be protective against cancer progression. We undertook a meta-analysis of epidemiological and perioperative clinical studies to investigate the association between beta-blocker use and cancer recurrence (CR), disease-free survival (DFS), and overall survival (OS).

Databases were searched until September 2017, reported hazard ratios (HRs) pooled, and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) calculated. Comparative studies examining the effect of beta-blockers (selective and non-selective) on cancer outcomes were included. The Newcastle Ottawa Scale was used to assess methodological quality and bias.

Of the 27 included studies, nine evaluated the incidental use of non-selective beta-blockers, and ten were perioperative studies. Beta-blocker use had no effect on CR. Within subgroups of cancer, melanoma was associated with improved DFS (HR 0.03, 95% CI 0.01-0.17) and OS (HR 0.04, 95% CI 0.00-0.38), while endometrial cancer had an associated reduction in DFS (HR 1.40, 95% CI 1.10-1.80) and OS (HR 1.50, 95% CI 1.12-2.00). There was also reduced OS seen with head and neck and prostate cancer. Non-selective beta-blocker use was associated with improved DFS and OS in ovarian cancer, improved DFS in melanoma, but reduced OS in lung cancer. Perioperative studies showed similar variable effects across cancer types, albeit from a limited data pool.

Beta-blocker use had no evident effect on CR. The beneficial effect of beta-blockers on DFS and OS in the epidemiological or perioperative setting remains variable, tumour-specific, and of low-level evidence at present.

British journal of anaesthesia. 2018 May 03 [Epub]

A Yap, M A Lopez-Olivo, J Dubowitz, G Pratt, J Hiller, V Gottumukkala, E Sloan, B Riedel, R Schier

Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine, Princess Margaret Hospital, Perth, WA, Australia. Electronic address: ., The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA., Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Drug Discovery Biology Theme, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia., Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Department of Anaesthesia, Pain and Perioperative Medicine Unit, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia; Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia., Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Drug Discovery Biology Theme, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Cousins Center for PNI, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA., Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Drug Discovery Biology Theme, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Department of Anaesthesia, Pain and Perioperative Medicine Unit, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia., Department of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, VIC, Australia; Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital of Cologne, Germany.

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