Stress may dampen response to anti-cancer therapies
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.