Childhood neuroblastoma treatment enhanced with high blood pressure ‘beta-blockers’

An ‘old’ drug which is normally used to treat high blood pressure in adults could bring new hope to children with Neuroblastoma, researchers from the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia have discovered.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from nerve cells left over from a baby’s development in the womb, predominantly affecting very young children – between 0 and 5 years old.

But researchers conducting pre-clinical trials at CCIA (a world-class facility that the ACRF is proud to have funded via a $3.1m grant) have combined standard chemotherapy with beta-blockers to successfully enhance the effectiveness of the chemotherapy – paving the way towards better treatment outcomes, and decreased treatment doses for these young children. Their study has been published in the prestigious British Journal of Cancer.

Dr Eddy Pasquier, who led the study at CCIA, has explained:

“What we’ve shown is that these [beta-blocker] drugs – which are very cheap and non-toxic – can increase the efficacy of certain types of chemotherapy used in the treatment of neuroblastoma – a particularly aggressive form of childhood cancer – by promoting their capacity to block the formation of blood vessels within the tumour.”

“Increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy though the use of beta-blockers means we can get the same anti-tumour effect with a lower dose of chemotherapy,” said Dr Pasquier.

“Wherever possible, we are working towards reducing the toxicity of children’s cancer treatment and minimising the short-term and long-term side effects.”

Dr Pasquier is working closely with the team at Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, as well as clinicians around the world, to design and initiate human trials of this new treatment approach.