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Chronic Stress Agitates Ovarian Cancer – Less Stress will Slow Tumor Growth in Mice Study – Beta Blockers Help

July 24th 2006

Chronic Stress Agitates Ovarian Cancer – Less Stress will Slow Tumor Growth in Mice Study – Beta Blockers Help

Unhealthy Stress

An interesting study on mice has shown that stress can cause tumors to grow more quickly, and the effect can be blocked by a medication commonly prescribed for heart disease.  Dr. Anil Sood said "This study provides a new understanding of how chronic stress and stress factors drive tumor growth."  Sood is an associate professor of gynecologic oncology and cancer biology and director of ovarian cancer research.

When the researchers blocked the stress hormone receptors using the heart disease drug propronolol (a beta-blocker) in the mice, they were able to stop the negative effects of the stress on tumor growth. The researchers chose beta blockers because the same hormone receptors, called beta adrenergic receptors, are found in the heart and normally work to maintain blood flow.


Sood and Susan Lutgendorf became interested in this research when they noticed patients with ovarian cancer reported high levels of stress in their lives.  They say stress increases the blood flow to tumors. 

The research team says that patients who had more social support in their lives had lower “levels of this factor”.  They speculated as to whether hormones associated with chronic stress might affect how cancers grow.

According to Hood, “The concept of stress hormone receptors directly driving cancer growth is very new. Not much had been known about how often these receptors are expressed in cancer, and more importantly, whether they had any functional significance. Our research opens a new area of investigation."


He added “Beta blockers have been shown to be protective against cardiac disease. No one has studied their effect on chronic stress as it relates to cancer in humans. There is a lot of interest now in this area of combining behavioral interventions to reduce stress, as well as using beta blockers in cancer patients."

The research is published in by researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in the journal Nature Medicine.  

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