Drugs Health Pharma

Chronic stress may accelerate cancer growth, American scientists say

Chronic stress may induce cancer, according to scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

HQ Team

February 26, 2024: Chronic stress may be a factor in spreading cancer, according to scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Chronic stress can increase our risk for heart disease and strokes. It may also help cancer spread,” they wrote in a university statement.

Stress causes certain white blood cells called neutrophils to form sticky web-like structures that make body tissues more susceptible to metastasis. 

The finding could point to new treatment strategies that stop cancer’s spread before it starts, according to the statement from Orange County, New York-based university.

Xue-Yan He, a former postdoc in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Adjunct Professor Mikala Egeblad’s lab, said: “Stress is something we cannot avoid in cancer patients. You can imagine if you are diagnosed, you cannot stop thinking about the disease or insurance or family. So it is essential to understand how stress works on us.”

Mimicking stress

The team arrived at their discovery by mimicking chronic stress in mice with cancer. 

They first removed tumours that had been growing in mice’s breasts and spreading cancer cells to their lungs. Next, they exposed the mice to stress. 

“She saw this scary increase in metastatic lesions in these animals. It was up to a fourfold increase in metastasis,” said Egeblad.

Stress hormones called glucocorticoids act on the neutrophils. 

Three tests

These “stressed” neutrophils formed spider-web-like structures called NETs (neutrophil extracellular traps). 

NETs form when neutrophils expel DNA. Normally, they can defend us against invading microorganisms. However, in cancer, NETs create a metastasis-friendly environment.

Scientist, He performed three tests. 

First, she removed neutrophils from the mice using antibodies. Next, she injected a NET-destroying drug into the animals. Finally, she used mice whose neutrophils couldn’t respond to glucocorticoids. Each test achieved similar results. “The stressed mice no longer developed more metastasis,” He said.

Chronic stress caused NET formation to modify lung tissue even in mice without cancer. “It’s almost preparing your tissue for getting cancer,” said Egeblad.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Professor Linda Van Aelst, who worked along with the scientists said reducing stress should be a component of cancer treatment and prevention.

The team stated that future drugs preventing NET formation could benefit patients whose cancer hasn’t yet metastasised. Such new treatments could slow or stop cancer’s spread.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *