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Roswell ParkRoswell Park Clinical Trials Add Beta Blocker to Arsenal Against Esophageal Cancer

Previous Roswell Park studies demonstrated that propranolol increases the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

Researchers at Roswell Park are launching two phase 2 clinical trials to investigate the potential of propranolol, a beta blocker, in improving the effectiveness of checkpoint inhibitors for treating esophageal cancer. The trials aim to address the poor prognosis often associated with this type of cancer, which is frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage.

HCN Medical Memo
These trials offer a glimmer of hope in a field where advancements have been slow. The integration of propranolol with existing immunotherapies could potentially revolutionize treatment protocols, offering a new avenue for improving patient outcomes. Given the poor prognosis often associated with esophageal cancer, any enhancement in treatment efficacy is a significant step forward.

Key Points:
  • Roswell Park has begun two phase 2 clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of propranolol in combination with checkpoint inhibitors for esophageal cancer treatment.
  • Elizabeth Repasky, PhD, states that beta blockers like propranolol can strengthen anti-tumor immune cells, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of immunotherapies.
  • Sarbajit Mukherjee, MD, MS, notes that esophageal cancer is often resistant to treatment by the time it is diagnosed, contributing to poor survival rates.
  • Both trials are enrolling patients with adenocarcinomas of the esophagus or gastroesophageal junction, where median survival is just over 12 months for advanced cases.

“In our earlier laboratory and clinical trials, we have demonstrated that beta blocker drugs like propranolol allow anti-tumor immune cells to become much stronger, which gives immunotherapies — and in particular, checkpoint inhibitors like pembrolizumab — a much better chance to work.”
– Elizabeth Repasky, PhD, Vice Chair of Immunology and Co-Leader of the Cancer Stress Biology Program at Roswell Park

Additional Points:
  • One study, led by Anurag Singh, MD, will enroll 60 patients and focus on the effects of propranolol combined with chemoradiation.
  • Both clinical trials are funded by Roswell Park and the US Department of Defense.
  • Previous data from Roswell Park suggests that patients who were on beta blockers before their cancer treatment had better outcomes.

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