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Stress Causes Tumor Growth and Metastasis in Mice

Six hours of stress increases tumor burden by 3.5 times, can be blocked by propranolol or VEGF inhibitors

WEDNESDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Stress can promote tumor growth and metastasis in a mouse model of ovarian carcinoma, according to a study published online July 23 in Nature Medicine.

It's well known that stress can alter many physiological functions but its relationship to cancer progression is unclear. To test this, Anil K. Sood, M.D., from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues injected human ovarian carcinoma cells into mice and subjected them to varying amounts of stress, caused by immobilization.

The investigators found that over 2.5 times more tumors developed in mice stressed for two hours and increased to 3.5 times in mice stressed for six hours. Tumor growth was dependent on activation of the beta-adrenergic receptor and could be inhibited by the beta-blocker, propranolol. In addition, while the tumors were confined in the unstressed mice, they spread to liver or spleen in about half of the stressed mice, were highly vascularized, and could be further inhibited by blocking VEGF-receptor activation.

"Interventions targeting neuroendocrine function at the level of the central nervous system could represent new strategies for protecting individuals with cancer from the detrimental effects of stress biology on the progression of malignant disease," the authors write.

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