The IBioBA’s Max Planck Heart and Lung Guest laboratory participated in a collaborative study in which found that propranolol, a drug used to lower blood pressure, stops the growth of osteosarcoma and increases the efficacy of chemotherapy.

The finding was published in the journal Scientific Reports of the Nature group.

Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that begins in the cells that form the bones. It is the most prevalent bone tumor and usually manifests in the long bones of the arms and legs, mainly affecting children and adolescents.

It is a highly aggressive disease, with vascularized tumors prone to metastasis. Symptoms include swelling and localized pain in the bones and its treatment consists of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In Argentina, as well as in other low and middle income countries, due to the limitations of the health system in relation to prevention and follow-up, late diagnosis and limited access to the different existing treatments, patients have a worse prognosis than in high income countries. 

Despite its high associated mortality, it is a poorly explored disease with many unmet clinical needs. “As a result of the lack of knowledge about this pathology and the molecular mechanisms that govern it, the treatment schemes for this disease have not evolved in the last 40 years, which has a direct impact on the development of new treatments”, says Maximiliano Ferrero, a researcher at the Max Planck Heart and Lung Host Laboratory, who collaborated in this project.

In this context, researchers from several institutions found that the antihypertensive drug propranolol inhibits osteosarcoma tumor growth and increases the efficacy of chemotherapy. The work was recently published in the Nature group’s journal Scientific Reports.

“The work aims at repositioning drugs for the treatment of different aggressive tumors that are refractory to therapy, i.e. the study of drugs approved in other pathologies for use in cancer. This implies shorter research times to reach patients, low implementation and production costs, and safe and well-tolerated drugs”, explains Ferrero, who was in charge of data analysis and molecular biology studies.

Potential antitumor activity and therapeutic benefits of repurposed β-blocker propranolol in osteosarcoma.

Taking into account the unmet clinical needs of this aggressive disease, the team evaluated the antitumor activity of propranolol using different preclinical models of osteosarcoma in vitro and in vivo, alone or together with chemotherapy. “The published study demonstrates that the drug propranolol, used to treat different cardiovascular diseases, has the ability to slow the tumor growth of osteosarcoma”, adds the IBioBA’s researcher.

The work also describes how propranolol has the ability to block different pro-tumor effects of various stress hormones, such as adrenaline, on tumor cells, as well as increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy. 

“The study has enormous potential since propranolol could be used to modulate aggressiveness and complement the standard therapy used in osteosarcoma, a disease that, when diagnosed in low and middle-income countries such as Argentina, has a poorer prognosis than in high-income countries”, concludes Ferrero.

The finding is the result of collaborative work between the Max Planck Heart and Lung Guest laboratory of the Buenos Aires Biomedicine Research Institute (IBioBA), the Center for Molecular and Translational Oncology (COMTra) of the Department of Science and Technology of the National University of Quilmes, and Unit 6 of the Center for Translational Medicine of the El Cruce “Néstor Kirchner” Hospital, together with foreign institutions such as the Max Planck Institute of Nauheim, Germany, and the Center for Precision Medicine of the San Martín de Porres University of Lima, Peru.