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Stress and tumors: the relationship at risk

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The link was already known: numerous studies had already shown that stress can increase the risk of cancer progression of cancer patients, favoring the spread of cancer cells in the blood through new “escape routes” that this same factor is able to open; we therefore see this dangerous relationship.

New research reveals today the mechanism by which stress modulates spread of the tumor through another transport network easily accessible to diseased cells: the lymphatic system.

In practice, the scholars of Monash University in Melbourne (Australia), with the contribution ofEuropean Institute of Oncology have observed how chronic stress is able to “restructure” the lymphatic networks around the tumor and within it, to offer cancer cells new ways of spreading. An unexpected communication system was also identified between stress-induced neural signals and inflammatory processes.

Chronic stress promotes the spread of tumors

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It chronic stress, partly mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, induces a series of physiological changes, such as the formation of new vessels and the activation of inflammatory cells (such as macrophages), which promote the process of metastasis.

“Stress affects not only our psychological well-being, but also our biology,” he said Erica Sloan, co-author of the study-. In practice, stress increases the speed along the new lymphatic pathways and helps the cells to move more rapidly and expand outside the tumor ”.

With the purpose of reduce the tumor spread blocking the stress signaling pathways, the researchers then turned the work on betabloccanti, drugs with few side effects, normally used for treatment dell‘hypertension, which have the property of inhibiting the signal of a “stress hormone” (noadrenaline or norepinephrine), which in turn plays a role in tumor progression.

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In this context, the contribution of the team of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the European Institute of Oncology proved to be fundamental: Sara Gandini, Edoardo Botteri and Nicole Rotmensz. With an observational study on 1000 women treated in IEO for breast cancer, the researchers confirmed the results obtained in vivo in the clinic: patients taking beta-blockers demonstrated alower incidence of affected lymph nodes and distant metastases, also taking into account concomitant factors such as age and the type of treatment followed.

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