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Stress may dampen response to anti-cancer therapies

September 26, 2013 -- Heightened stress levels have been shown to have deleterious effects on patients with multiple sclerosis, increase the risk of dementia in the aged, and speed up cellular DNA aging. Now a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation further indicts stress: calm mice, either implanted with prostate cancer cells or genetically modified to develop the disease, fared better than their stress-out counterparts in response to chemotherapy drugs. The calm critters’ tumors shrank when given anti-cancer drugs, whereas stressed-out mice showed significantly more limited cancer cell death. Tantalizingly, when the stressed mice were given beta-blockers, a common drug used to treat hypertension, their tumor cells reacted to chemotherapy just as positively as the calm mice. Beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline and can be used to treat or possibly prevent post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).The researchers postulate that treating prostate cancer patients who have high levels of adrenaline with beta blockers could improve their response to anti-cancer treatments. But mice are not humans and more research will be needed to determine if this finding holds true for patients.

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