Tramadol use is associated with enhanced postoperative outcomes in breast cancer patients: a retrospective clinical study with in vitro confirmation

Myoung H Kim, Ju E Oh, Seho Park, Joo H Kim, Ki Y Lee, Sun J Bai, Hyunjik Song, Hye J Hwang, Dong W Kim, Young C Yoo
British Journal of Anaesthesia 2019, 123 (6): 865-876

BACKGROUND: There is growing interest in the effect of postoperative analgesics on oncological outcomes after cancer surgery. We investigated the impact of tramadol after breast cancer surgery on recurrence and mortality and explored the mechanism by which tramadol affects cultured breast cancer cells in vitro.

METHODS: Electronic medical records of patients who underwent breast cancer surgery between November 2005 and December 2010 at Severance Hospital in Korea were reviewed. Cox regression analyses were used to identify factors related to postoperative recurrence and mortality. We performed the sensitivity test with propensity score matching to adjust for selection bias. In addition, we investigated the effects of tramadol on human breast adenocarcinoma (Michigan Cancer Foundation-7 [MCF-7]) cells via assessment of cell viability, clonogenic assay, and cell cycle analysis in vitro.

RESULTS: Of 2588 breast cancer patients, 36.4% had received tramadol. Those who received tramadol had a 0.71-fold decreased risk of recurrence and a 0.56-fold decrease in mortality. The MCF-7 cell viability assays showed that tramadol had an anti-proliferative effect by cell cycle arrest, suppressing colony formation, and regulation of oestrogen and progesterone receptors. Tramadol induced apoptosis of MCF-7 cells via extracellular signal-regulated kinases by decreasing of 5-hydroxytryptamine (HT)2B receptor and transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 expression.

CONCLUSIONS: After breast cancer surgery, patients who received tramadol had a decreased risk of postoperative recurrence and mortality. The anti-tumour effect of tramadol appears to involve inhibition of proliferation, induction of apoptosis, and effects on 5-HT2B receptor and TRPV-1.


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