Researchers in the US have shown how the stress hormone noradrenaline fuels the growth and spread of aggressive, malignant tumours. The data suggest a new and potentially life-saving role for beta blockers, drugs commonly used to treat heart arrhythmias and high blood pressure. Beta blockers reverse the effects of noradrenaline. 

Ronald Glaser from Ohio State University in Columbus cultured cells from a nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), a particularly invasive, malignant type of cancer. Treating the cells with noradrenaline stimulated the production of three cancer promoting compounds: two metalloprotease enzymes (MMP-2 and MMP-9) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Treating the cells with a widely prescribed beta blocker called propranolol prevented the release of all of these compounds.

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