Effects of β-adrenergic antagonists on chemoradiation therapy for locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer

Kunal R. Chaudhary, Sherry X. Yan, Samuel P. Heilbroner, Joshua R. Sonett, Mark B. Stoopler, Catherine Shu, Balazs Halmos, Tony J.C. Wang, Tom K. Hei, Simon K. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Introduction: Locally advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is highly resistant to chemoradiotherapy, and many cancer patients experience chronic stress. Studies that suggest stimulation of β-adrenergic receptors (β-AR) promotes tumor invasion and therapy resistance. We investigated whether β-AR inhibition with beta-blockers acts as a chemotherapy and radiation sensitizer in vitro and in patients treated with chemoradiation for locally advanced NSCLC. Methods: We investigated the effects of the non-selective beta-blocker propranolol on two human lung adenocarcinoma cell lines (PC9, A549) treated with radiation or cisplatin. We retrospectively evaluated 77 patients with Stage IIIA NSCLC who received induction chemoradiation followed by surgery. Pathological and imaging response, metastatic rate, and survival were analyzed using SPSS v22.0 and PrismGraphpad6. Results: Propranolol combined with radiation or cisplatin decreased clonogenic survival of PC9 and A549 cells in vitro (p <0.05). Furthermore, propranolol decreased expression of phospho-protein kinase A (p-PKA), a β-adrenergic pathway downstream activation target, in both cell lines compared to irradiation or cisplatin alone (p <0.05). In patients treated for Stage IIIA NSCLC, 16 took beta-blockers, and 61 did not. Beta-blockade is associated with a trend to improved overall survival (OS) at 1 year (81.3% vs 57.4%, p = 0.08) and distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) (2.6 years vs. 1.3 years, p = 0.16). Although beta-blocker use was associated with decreased distant metastases (risk ratio (RR) 0.19; p = 0.03), it did not affect primary tumor pathological response (p = 0.40) or imaging response (p = 0.36). Conclusions: β-AR blockade enhanced radiation and cisplatin sensitivity of human lung cancer cells in vitro. Use of beta-blockers is associated with decreased distant metastases and potentially improved OS and DMFS. Additional studies are warranted to evaluate the role of beta-blockers as a chemoradiation sensitizer in locally advanced NSCLC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number575
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Beta-blocker
  • Chemotherapy
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Radiation
  • Repurposed drugs
  • Sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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