Blood Pressure Meds May Prolong Life in Pancreatic Cancer

March 7, 2022 — New research shows that popular blood pressure medications can prolong the lives of patients with pancreatic cancer. Which is notoriously difficult to treat and has a low survival rate.

These drugs, known as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Lower blood pressure by relaxing the veins and arteries and allowing the heart to pump blood more easily.

Animal studies have shown that these drugs can slow the growth of pancreatic cancer. Several small human studies suggest the same, but the number of included patients was too small to draw firm conclusions.

In the new study, researchers looked at 3.7 million adults in Italy and identified 8,158 people. Who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 2003 and 2011.


That study published last month in the magazine BMC Cancer found that the vast majority of these patients (86%) died within about 6 months of diagnosis.

But patients who took ARBs after they were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had a 20% lower risk of death compared to similar patients who did not take ARBs.

In a smaller group of patients undergoing cancer surgery, those taking ARBs had a 28% lower risk of death.

In addition, patients with pancreatic cancer who took ACE inhibitors had a 13% lower risk of death in the first 3 years after diagnosis. But this benefit waned later.

But “ARBs and ACE inhibitors should still be considered experimental treatments for pancreatic cancer,” warns researcher Scott Keith, Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

Timothy Pavlik, MD, also cautions against jumping to conclusions based on this study.

“Despite the provocation, these data cannot be considered conclusive,” says Pavlik of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The study is retrospective, making it susceptible to selection and treatment bias. In addition, the data was sourced from an administrative health database that may be infamous for its lack of detailed clinical data,” he notes.

Pavlik also notes that studies evaluating the effects of blood pressure medications on cancer risk and outcomes are mixed. Several previous studies, for example, suggest that ACE inhibitors and ARBs may protect against malignancies such as colorectal cancer. While other data suggest a possible link between ACE inhibitors. And an increased risk of certain cancers, such as lung cancer.

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