Beta Blocker & Cancer

I am always reading, talking to scientist and researchers about what can we use to help fight cancer for our patients at New Hope Unlimited. I love to report on new things and ideas for combating cancer. I just wish I could report more on natural remedies but the studies are very slow to come out for them. However, I understand that our government will not pay to have those type studies done and they can be quite costly. I will keep looking though.

Carvedilol is a drug typically used to treat high blood pressure and a new study has found that it can also protect against the sun-induced cell damage that leads to skin cancer.  The researchers discovered this after making an error in the lab.

A graduate student at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy, Sherry Liang, will present the new findings at the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics annual meeting in Chicago at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting.

Yin Huang, PhD, co-leader of the research team, along with Bradley T. Andresen, PhD said that it was an error during their experiment that led to a very interesting scientific discovery.  They believe this research could lead to the development of a class of new cancer-preventive agents.

A former graduate student in Huang’s lab was studying whether carvedilol and similar beta blockers might increase cancer risk when the discovery was made.  Carvedilol’s anticancer effect was inadvertently tested rather than its ability to promote cancer, finding that it surprisingly showed some protective effects against skin cancer.

Experiments were then conducted with cell cultures and mice to see if carvedilol could prevent skin cancer caused by ultraviolet-b (UVB), the portion of sunlight that tends to damage the skin’s top epidermal layers and plays a key role in skin cancer development.

It was found that carvedilol exhibited a protective effect in cultured mouse skin cells exposed to UVB and in hairless mice that were given the drug after UVB exposure.  This showed carvedilol acted by protecting cells against the cancer-causing DNA damage and the cell death produced by UVB.  The hairless mice exposed to UVB showed decreases in both the severity and number of tumors that developed when given carvedilol, compared to those not given the drug.  The study also showed carvedilol delayed skin tumor formation more than sunscreen.

However, they discovered that not all beta blockers show cancer preventive properties and the cancer-fighting beta blockers likely act on the not yet identified molecules.  There is preliminary data indicating the cellular targets for carvedilol are not related to the beta-adrenergic receptors that are the commonly accepted targets for all beta blockers and they likely target unexpected mechanisms involved in cancer development.

They now aim to incorporate carvedilol or similar beta blocker into a skin cream or spray that could hopefully be used to prevent skin cancer arising from UV light exposure.  This particular treatment would act on the skin without affecting the blood pressure and heart rate.  This understanding could also allow scientists to design completely new treatments that target these mechanisms without introducing any cardiovascular effects.

Dr Fredda Branyon