Drugs that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure also helps to slow the progression of deadly skin cancer melanoma, thereby extending the lives of the patients.
A review of thousands of medical records in the Danish Cancer Registry showed that melanoma patients, who were also taking a specific beta-blocker, had much lower mortality rates than did patients not taking the drug.
If the results are confirmed in a planned clinical trial, this might be an additional adjunct treatment for cancer patients facing a poor prognosis.
The research found 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.
Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the Ohio State University's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR), and his colleagues 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," said Stanley Lemeshow, a professor and dean of the College of Public Health at Ohio State.
The researchers found that the chance of surviving for a specified number of years improved by 13 percent.
When they looked at all causes of death among melanoma patients - not just melanoma - their chances of survival were improved by 19 percent.
The study is published in the current issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.