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Propranolol and survival from breast cancer: a pooled analysis of European breast cancer cohorts

Background

Preclinical studies have demonstrated that propranolol inhibits several pathways involved in breast cancer progression and metastasis. We investigated whether breast cancer patients who used propranolol, or other non-selective beta-blockers, had reduced breast cancer-specific or all-cause mortality in eight European cohorts.

Methods

Incident breast cancer patients were identified from eight cancer registries and compiled through the European Cancer Pharmacoepidemiology Network. Propranolol and non-selective beta-blocker use was ascertained for each patient. Breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality were available for five and eight cohorts, respectively. Cox regression models were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for cancer-specific and all-cause mortality by propranolol and non-selective beta-blocker use. HRs were pooled across cohorts using meta-analysis techniques. Dose–response analyses by number of prescriptions were also performed. Analyses were repeated investigating propranolol use before cancer diagnosis.

Results

The combined study population included 55,252 and 133,251 breast cancer patients in the analysis of breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality respectively. Overall, there was no association between propranolol use after diagnosis of breast cancer and breast cancer-specific or all-cause mortality (fully adjusted HR = 0.94, 95% CI, 0.77, 1.16 and HR = 1.09, 95% CI, 0.93, 1.28, respectively). There was little evidence of a dose–response relationship. There was also no association between propranolol use before breast cancer diagnosis and breast cancer-specific or all-cause mortality (fully adjusted HR = 1.03, 95% CI, 0.86, 1.22 and HR = 1.02, 95% CI, 0.94, 1.10, respectively). Similar null associations were observed for non-selective beta-blockers.

Conclusions

In this large pooled analysis of breast cancer patients, use of propranolol or non-selective beta-blockers was not associated with improved survival.

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