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Startling Insight: Scientists Uncover Surprising Link Between Stress and Spread of Cancer

'Shocking' Results: Scientists Uncover How Stress Sparks Cancer Spread
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'Shocking' new research links stress to the spread of cancer, scientists say.

Feb. 27 2024, Published 1:03 p.m. ET

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Stress is inevitable, but when it becomes excessive, it can profoundly impact our health, including increasing the risk of heart disease, strokes and even the spread of cancer.

Understanding how stress influences our bodies has posed a significant challenge in cancer care, but Xue-Yan He from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, or CSHL, may have made a breakthrough in unraveling the mystery, according to SciTechDaily.

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The research conducted by Adjunct Professor Mikala Egeblad and Professor Linda Van Aelst suggests that stress prompts certain white blood cells known as neutrophils to produce sticky web-like structures, which make body tissue more vulnerable to cancer metastasis.

This discovery opens doors to potential treatment strategies aimed at halting cancer's spread.

The team conducted experiments on mice with cancer to simulate chronic stress. Under stress, they observed a shocking increase of up to fourfold in metastatic lesions in the mice.

They identified that stress hormones called glucocorticoids trigger the formation of spider-web-like structures called NETs (neutrophil extracellular traps) by neutrophils.

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While NETs typically defend against invading microorganisms, in the context of cancer, they create an environment conducive to metastasis.

To confirm their findings, He conducted three tests: removing neutrophils using antibodies, administering a NET-destroying drug, and utilizing mice with neutrophils insensitive to glucocorticoids. The three tests all yielded similar results — stressed mice no longer exhibited increased metastasis.

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Moreover, the team discovered that chronic stress induced NET formation, altering lung tissue even in mice without cancer, suggesting it primes the tissue for cancer development.

The profound implications of their research show reducing stress could be a vital component of both cancer treatment and prevention.

Additionally, the possibility of developing drugs to prevent NET formation offers hope for patients whose cancer has not metastasized, potentially slowing or halting its spread.


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