The People's Perspective on Medicine

Beta Blockers Boost Benefits from Cancer Immunotherapy

A familiar and inexpensive beta blocker like propranolol may make cancer immunotherapy for melanoma and other tumors far more effective.

Beta blocker heart medicines have been available for decades. Drugs like propranolol are prescribed to treat the pain of angina, lower high blood pressure and prevent migraine headaches. Might they also have a role in the burgeoning field of cancer immunotherapy?

Beta Blockers Improve the Impact of Cancer Immunotherapy:

In recent years, drug companies have developed cancer medications that work through the patient’s own immune system. These include checkpoint inhibitors such as pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo). Such medications are often helpful for metastatic melanoma, although they do not work for all patients. Moreover, the price tag for these treatments can be breathtaking.

Now, researchers report that the old and inexpensive medicines known as beta blockers may boost the effectiveness of such pricey new cancer medications. A review of medical records showed that patients with metastatic melanoma fared better on cancer immunotherapy if they were also taking nonselective beta blockers like propranolol (Kokolus et al, Oncoimmunology, online, Dec. 21, 2017).

Mouse Study Confirms the Benefit:

A follow-up experiment in mice demonstrated that immunotherapy for melanoma was more effective when paired with propranolol. We will be watching for further research to determine whether propranolol or other cheap beta blockers truly can turbo-charge cancer immunotherapy.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I pray this will not happen to a cheap drug like Atenalol or Propranalol. I have been on one of these since 1979. I notice we are having trouble getting the lower dosage 25mgs of Atenalol so they are up to something. Same with NatureThroid you can’t get certain size doses and there is no good reason for any of this, except what this article may be saying. Propranalol was given to me to ward off migraines and they worked.
In fact my daughter had a prescription filled at a local compounding pharmacy for 25 mg of Atenolol and was charged 1.00 per pill. So got 50 of them for 50.00. I checked with my local pharmacy in my area, and asked what they would charge for 50 of them and they said 11.00. I would love to be able to give the name of the Pharmacy but there are only 2 or 3 of them here locally and people should be forewarned.

I am happy to know some people may be helped by this. I am horrified that this will take my Propranolol (for an essential tremor) from being an inexpensive generic overnight like what happened when they found that gout medication, available for $5 a bottle of 100 went to over $300 for 1 month supply when research showed it helped prevent a recurrence of pericardial effusion. Needless to say, I refused to pay that and have, thankfully, not had a recurrence. They drug company apparently bought up all the generic manufacturers of the drug, then raised the price dramatically! I feel like drug companies are all crooks AND the government was complicit when they started to allow advertising of new drugs to build up a demand! We, the consumer, need to go on strike and refuse all non generic medications taking only the older tried and true meds.

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