WASHINGTON — Patients with colon cancer who take common blood-pressure drugs may have a greater chance at survival, according to new research. 

The findings of the study were published in the journal’ Cancer Medicine‘.

After reviewing the outcomes of almost 14,000 patients with colorectal cancer, researchers determined that angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, and thiazide diuretics were all associated with decreased mortality.

They also found that patients who took their blood-pressure drugs consistently were less likely to die from their cancer.

The researchers emphasized that more research is needed to validate the connection between blood-pressure drugs and better outcomes.

But they said they are hopeful that the drugs could offer a new, low-cost way to improve care for patients with stage I-III colorectal cancer.

“Cost-effective solutions to prolong cancer survivorship in older patients may lie in commonly used medications,” said researcher Rajesh Balkrishnan of the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences.

“However, we need further confirmation of these findings through clinical trials.”

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.

The American Cancer Society estimated that there will be 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 cases of rectal cancer in the country in 2021.

A troubling rise in the number of younger people developing colorectal cancer recently prompted the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to reduce the recommended age for first screening for the disease to 45 from 50. 

Colon cancer killed “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman in 2020 when he was only 43.

High blood pressure is common among patients with colorectal cancer, but there has been little research into the potential effect of blood-pressure drugs on patients’ outcomes.

Researchers at the University of Virginia Cancer Center and the Universidade de Sao Paulo Instituto do Cancer do Estado de Sao Paulo wanted to change that, so they conducted a large retrospective analysis.

They used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results (SEER) Medicare database to review outcomes of 13,982 patients ages 65 and older who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2012.

The researchers found that angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and thiazide diuretics appeared to provide the most significant benefit to patient survival and outcomes, while there did not appear to be similar benefits from calcium-channel blockers.

Patients’ adherence to their blood-pressure regimen also appeared important.

“Our results show an association between increased adherence to (blood-pressure) medications and reduced mortality in patients starting these medications after stage I, II or III CRC (colorectal cancer) diagnosis relative to those who did not,” the researchers said in a new scientific paper.

“Although further analysis is necessary, this increment of survival may be associated with a higher dose exposure, as a long-term/high-dose exposure to ACE-Is/ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers) was associated with a decreased incidence of CRC mortality.” 

The scientists are uncertain if the apparent benefits from the blood-pressure drugs stem from the drugs themselves or from controlling patients’ high blood pressure. They can envision scenarios that support either option or both.

The researchers noted that there have been several recent clinical trials testing blood-pressure drugs’ potential usefulness against other cancers.

“More research is warranted into the drugs’ application for colorectal cancer, as well as their potential benefits in gastric and bladder cancer,” they said.

“It is heartening to note that we could confirm the results of the animal model work done by Doctor Roger Chammas and colleagues at the University of Sao Paulo Cancer Center in a human population as well,” Balkrishnan said.

“We will continue to explore these protective effects of antihypertensives on other cancers as well in human populations using stronger study designs. This could potentially provide significant implications for gastrointestinal cancer treatment.”

The work was supported by the University of Virginia Cancer Center and Fundacao de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo. 

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Krishna Kakani

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