Following surgery to remove cancerous growths and tumors, conventional medical practice has been to refrain from any additional intervention for a period of several weeks before and after the surgery. That means no chemotherapy, radiation or immune therapy.

New research from Israel says that may be a fatal mistake.

Most cancer-related deaths are actually the result of “post-surgical metastatic recurrence,” where cells of the main cancerous tumor that was presumably removed travel to other parts of the body where, undetected, they can proliferate into inoperable and ultimately deadly new growths.

The researchers found that, rather than do nothing around cancer surgery, if they applied a specific drug regimen consisting of a beta blocker and an anti-inflammatory, they could reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. The recommended inexpensive drug cocktail is considered safe and consists of Deralin (used to reduce blood pressure and anxiety) and Etopan (which reduces inflammation).

Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu of Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences and the Sagol School of Neuroscience says that his colleagues were shocked by the results.

“Even within the medical establishment, we encountered some levels of disbelief and antagonism,” he explains. “But after conducting ample studies in animal models of cancer, and reviewing the medical literature, we came to the firm conclusion that maybe this is the most important period in the prevention of cancer recurrence.”

For the study, 38 breast-cancer patients at three Israeli medical centers were given Deralin and Etopan five days before their surgeries, the day of their surgeries, and five days after their surgeries. Blood and tumor tissue samples were then analyzed.

“We found that the drugs were very efficient in reducing biomarkers of metastatic processes,” Ben-Eliyahu says. “For example, we found that the drug treatment reverses EMT — the process that tumor cells go through to slip out of the primary tumor and enter another organ.”

The research team has found similar results with colorectal cancer patients; that research has not been published yet. The current study appeared in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. Ben-Eliyahu collaborated with Prof. Steven Cole of UCLA; Dr. Oded Zmora of Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer; Dr. Eran Sharon of Rabin Medical Center, Petah Tikva; and Dr. Tanir Allweis of Kaplan Medical Center, Rehovot.

The next step will be a longer-scale clinical trial. “Positive outcomes should validate this treatment and lead to its becoming available for most cancer patients,” Ben-Eliyahu believes.