Repurposing Blood Pressure Medication for Triple Negative Breast Cancer
Project Description: Commonly used medications for high blood pressure, known as “beta-blockers”, may be useful for enhancing treatment response to chemotherapy. Associate Professor Erica Sloan (Monash University) will investigate how these medications may help women with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Why this work is needed: Chemotherapy is the main treatment strategy for many women with TNBC, but tumours may eventually return (relapse) and stop responding to therapy. Hence, it is important to develop alternative treatment strategies to enhance treatment response and prevent relapse. This study will investigate whether beta-blocker drugs can be used to improve the body’s response to chemotherapy in TNBC.
Expected outcomes: The study will identify how beta-blocker drugs work in breast cancer to improve chemotherapy outcomes. This is needed to provide critical evidence to inform the design and justify a new treatment approach for patients with TNBC that can be tested in a Phase III clinical trial. If such a trial is successful it will lead to translation of the findings to clinical practice.
While chemotherapy has been central in breast cancer treatment for decades, in many patients their cancer will eventually return and stop responding to chemotherapy. This is particularly devastating for patients with triple negative breast cancer where there are often few other treatment options. Therefore, strategies to improve response to chemotherapy, prevent cancer relapse and increase survival are critically needed.
Previous research from the laboratory of Associate Professor Sloan has shown that chemotherapy is a significant stressor on the body, causing it to enter “fight-or-flight” mode. This stress response is likely to play a role in treatment response to chemotherapy, but no studies have looked at this in detail.
In this study, the team will determine how chemotherapy turns on the fight-or-flight stress response and why this stops chemotherapy working optimally. Then, they will look for evidence in patients that blocking the fight-or-flight stress response during chemotherapy, using beta-blocker drugs, stops relapse and increases survival.
Beta-blockers reduce the fight-or-flight stress response in the body and are cheap and widely-available. Research from A/Prof Sloan’s team indicates that these medications can be safely used in combination with chemotherapy and may be a viable option for improving patient outcomes in the future.