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Stress Feeds Prostate Cancer Cells

January 28, 2013

Prostate cancer patients have increased levels of stress and anxiety; however, several recent studies have found that men who take drugs that interfere with the stress hormone adrenaline have a lower incidence of prostate cancer. In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation George Kulik and colleagues at Wake Forest University examined the relationship between stress and cancer progression in a mouse model of prostate cancer. Kulik and colleagues found that mice that had been subjected to stress (exposed to the scent of a predator) exhibited a significantly reduced response to a drug that induces cancer cell death compared to their unstressed counterparts. Administration of adrenaline also blocked cancer cell death. Conversely, drugs that inhibited adrenaline signaling ablated the effect of stress on prostate cancer. These findings suggest that beta-blockers, which are used for the treatment of high blood pressure and block the effects of adrenaline, could increase the efficacy of anti-cancer therapies. In a companion commentary, Anil Sood and colleagues at MD Anderson Cancer Center discuss additional studies that will be required to move these findings from bench to bedside.

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