The Repurposing of Propranolol: A Potential Game Changer in Various Cancers

Known primarily for its role in treating hypertension, Propranolol – a non-specific Beta-blocker – has now begun to command attention within the oncology community. As research rapidly advances, we're witnessing Propranolol’s impressive potential as a therapeutic agent in combating a range of cancers, including those of the breast, lung, ovary, and colon.

One of the fascinating revelations about Propranolol is its capacity to counteract the metastatic aggression of tumors, believed to be stimulated by stress hormones via COX-2. By effectively inhibiting this process, Propranolol has proven its potential in reducing both the aggression and metastases of various cancers.

But how exactly does this work? Here's a simplified explanation: chronic stress prompts the release of epinephrine, which activates LDHA, enabling fermentation. Furthermore, chronic exposure to epinephrine promotes the establishment of immunosuppressive micro-environments through the induction of a COX2-dependent pathway. By inhibiting the beta-adrenergic receptors, Propranolol effectively inhibits the activation of both LDHA and COX2. This modulation of stress-induced responses, along with observational research from MD Anderson, suggests an increased survival rate in ovarian cancer patients who take the drug.

In addition to these exciting developments, the European Commission has recently granted Propranolol an Orphan Drug Designation, a special status provided to drugs intended for rare conditions. This recognition was in response to successful repurposing of Propranolol for the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma. Spearheaded by the innovative work of Brad Bryan, Ph.D., at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, a lab investigation demonstrated Propranolol's ability to remarkably reduce the growth of angiosarcoma, a lethal form of soft tissue sarcoma.

The beauty of Propranolol extends beyond its effectiveness. As a generic drug developed in the 1960s, Propranolol is both highly accessible and cost-efficient, making it a promising alternative to costly prescription therapies for sarcomas.

Propranolol's utility isn’t confined to its primary function as a beta-blocker. Aside from controlling heart rhythms and reducing the severity and frequency of migraines, it's the effect on the beta-adrenergic receptors in various tissues that appears to have the most profound impact on cancer. These receptors, present in the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, and other organs, respond to stress hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. By blocking these receptors, beta-blockers like Propranolol can mitigate the impacts of stress, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and crucially, they may hinder cancer progression.

Stress is a significant factor in cancer metastasis, and scientists worldwide are devoted to inhibiting this process. While beta-blockers like Propranolol offer a promising path, a holistic approach encompassing stress management techniques, a balanced diet, and regular exercise should not be overlooked.

To understand this approach, let's delve into the mechanisms at play. Chronic stress triggers the release of the hormone epinephrine. This, in turn, activates Lactate Dehydrogenase A (LDHA) enabling fermentation, a process that enhances cancer cell growth. Moreover, chronic exposure to epinephrine creates immunosuppressive microenvironments via the induction of a COX2-dependent pathway, providing a favorable context for cancer cells to thrive.

But here's where Propranolol comes in: It inhibits the activation of LDHA and COX2 by blocking beta-adrenergic receptors, thus dampening the chain reaction initiated by chronic stress. This unique property allows Propranolol to potentially reduce cancer aggression and metastasis.

Extensive research supports this mechanism. One such study from the MD Anderson Cancer Center revealed that taking Propranolol could increase the survival of patients with high-grade serous ovarian cancer by four years. Similar promising results have been observed in patients with breast, lung, colorectal, and other types of cancer.

In another exciting development, Propranolol has been granted Orphan Drug Designation by the European Commission to treat soft tissue sarcoma. This underscores the drug's potential in addressing rare conditions and offers hope for patients with this particularly aggressive cancer type.

Dr. Brad Bryan, a biomedical scientist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, highlighted Propranolol's potential for angiosarcoma, a lethal form of soft tissue sarcoma. His research demonstrated that Propranolol could markedly reduce the growth of tumors in this context. This discovery sparked a series of trials, yielding similar positive outcomes in patients with angiosarcoma worldwide.

An additional bonus to Propranolol's promising therapeutic properties is its cost-effectiveness. Compared to existing therapies, which can run up to $10,000 a month, Propranolol costs approximately $4 a month. This stark price difference could significantly ease the financial burden on patients and healthcare systems.

Propranolol's role in cancer treatment is the potential to improve survival times in various cancers is already an exciting breakthrough. Whether you're a patient or healthcare professional, this is an avenue worth exploring as part of a comprehensive, integrative cancer management program.

In conclusion, the therapeutic potential of Propranolol in managing cancer is growing. Research supporting its efficacy is mounting, suggesting it could be a worthwhile addition to a comprehensive and integrative anti-cancer program. The drug is typically taken orally, with a starting dose of 40 mg twice a day, which can be increased to 40 mg thrice a day after a week.


  1. Stiles, J., Amaya, C., Rains, S., Diaz, D., Pham, R., & Battiste, J. et al. (2013). Targeting of Beta Adrenergic Receptors Results in Therapeutic Efficacy against Models of Hemangioendothelioma and Angiosarcoma. Plos ONE, 8(3), e60021. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060021
  2. Chow, W., Amaya, C., Rains, S., Chow, M., Dickerson, E., & Bryan, B. (2015). Growth Attenuation of Cutaneous Angiosarcoma With Propranolol-Mediated β-Blockade. JAMA Dermatology, 151(11), 1226. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2554;

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