Stress may help cancer cells resist treatment, research shows

Apr 10, 2007

Scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine are the first to report that the stress hormone epinephrine causes changes in prostate and breast cancer cells that may make them resistant to cell death.

"These data imply that emotional stress may contribute to the development of cancer and may also reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatments," said George Kulik, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of cancer biology and senior researcher on the project.

The study results are reported on-line in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and will appear in a future print issue.

Levels of epinephrine, which is produced by the adrenal glands, are sharply increased in response to stressful situations and can remain continuously elevated during persistent stress and depression, according to previous research. The goal of the current study was to determine whether there is a direct link between stress hormones and changes in cancer cells.

While a link between stress and cancer has been suggested, studies in large groups of people have been mixed.

"Population studies have had contradictory results," said Kulik. "We asked the question, ‘If stress is linked to cancer, what is the cellular mechanism?’ There had been no evidence that stress directly changes cancer cells."

Studying prostate and breast cancer cells in the laboratory, Kulik and colleagues found that a protein called BAD – which causes cell death – becomes inactive when cancer cells are exposed to epinephrine.

Kulik said that connection between stress and prostate cancer has been largely unexplored. However, recent studies suggest that these laboratory findings may apply to cancer patients.

"A study from Canada showed that men who took beta blockers for hypertension for at least four years had an 18 percent lower risk of prostate cancer," said Kulik. "These drugs block the effects of epinephrine, which could explain the finding. Another study of men after radical prostatectomy reported increased mood disturbances, which are often associated with elevated stress hormones. Although these studies do not directly address the role of stress hormones, they suggest that stress hormones may play an important role in prostate cancer."

Kulik said the findings have several implications for patients and for researchers.

"It may be important for patients who have increased responses to stress to learn to manage the effects," said Kulik. "And, the results point to the possibility of developing an intervention to block the effects of epinephrine."

Kulik is now studying blood samples of prostate cancer patients to determine if there is a link between levels of stress hormones and severity of disease and has begun studying the effects of epinephrine in mice with prostate cancer.

Source: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

Explore further: Mutations need help from aging tissue to cause leukemia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbial 'signature' for sexual crimes

1 hour ago

Bacterial communities living on an individual's pubic hairs could be used as a microbial 'signature' to trace their involvement in sexual assault cases, according to a study published in the open access journal Investigative Ge ...

Brazil: Google fined in Petrobras probe

3 hours ago

A Brazilian court says it has fined Google around $200,000 for refusing to intercept emails needed in a corruption investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras.

Atari's 'E.T.' game joins Smithsonian collection

3 hours ago

One of the "E.T." Atari game cartridges unearthed this year from a heap of garbage buried deep in the New Mexico desert has been added to the video game history collection at the Smithsonian.

Sony threatens to sue for publishing stolen emails

3 hours ago

A lawyer representing Sony Pictures Entertainment is warning news organizations not to publish details of company files leaked by hackers in one of the largest digital breaches ever against an American company.

Microsoft builds support over Ireland email case

3 hours ago

Microsoft said Monday it had secured broad support from a coalition of influential technology and media firms as it seeks to challenge a US ruling ordering it to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland.

Recommended for you

Medical marijuana helpful for cancer-linked symptoms

7 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Cannabis and cannabinoid pharmaceuticals can be helpful for nausea and vomiting, pain, and weight loss associated with cancer, according to research published online Dec. 10 in CA: A Cancer Jo ...

Mutations need help from aging tissue to cause leukemia

11 hours ago

Why are older people at higher risk for developing cancer? Prevailing opinion holds that, over time, your body's cells accumulate DNA damage and that eventually this damage catches up with the body in a way ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.