Tel Aviv University campus.
(photo credit: PR)
A new Tel Aviv University-led study has found that a specific drug regimen administered before and after surgery significantly reduces the risk of postsurgical cancer recurrence through metastasis. The research has just been published in Clinical Cancer Research.
Most cancer-related deaths are the result of postsurgical metastatic recurrence. In metastasis, cells of primary tumors wander to other parts of the body, where they often proliferate into inoperable, ultimately fatal growths.
The researchers said that these medications – a combination of a beta blocker (which relieves stress and high blood pressure) and an anti-inflammatory – may also improve the patients’ long-term survival rates.
The technique is safe and inexpensive, as the two medications cost about the same as aspirin; they are also administered to patients without contraindications.
The research was led by Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu of TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, together with Prof. Steven Cole of the University of California at Los Angeles; Prof.
Oded Zmora of Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer; Prof. Eran Sharon of Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus; and Prof. Tanir Allweis of Kaplan Medical Center.
“We’ve taken an unconventional approach, deviating from the current medical dogma that refrains from intervening during the short period surrounding cancer surgery – no chemo, radiotherapy or immune therapy for at least three weeks before or after surgery,” Ben-Eliyahu said. “Even within the medical establishment, we encountered some levels of disbelief and antagonism.
But after conducting ample studies in animal models of cancer, and reviewing the medical literature, we came to the firm conclusion that maybe this is the most important period in the prevention of cancer recurrence.”
For the study, 38 breast cancer patients at Sheba, Kaplan and Rabin medical centers were given a pharmacological treatment – Deralin (used to reduce blood pressure and anxiety) and Etopan (used to lower inflammation) – five days before their operations, the day of their surgery and five days after. Blood and tumor tissue samples were then analyzed using whole-genome, gene-expression profiling to identify all the RNAs expressed in malignant cells and leukocytes.
The research team has conducted a similar study, which has not yet been published, on colorectal cancer patients and found similar results.
“We found that the drugs were very efficient in reducing biomarkers of metastatic processes,” Ben-Eliyahu said. “For example, we found that the drug treatment reverses the process that tumor cells go through to slip out of the primary tumor and enter another organ. It is a crucially important step in the metastatic process. We also looked at indices related to the immune system and were able to improve immune competence and reduce inflammation with the drugs.”
The researchers are currently considering a larger- scale clinical trial to establish the clinical long-term beneficial effects of this treatment.
“Positive outcomes should validate this treatment and lead to its becoming available for most cancer patients,” Ben-Eliyahu concluded.