Fear of Recurrence May Actually Contribute to Cancer Recurrence

March 17, 2021 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

Stress, such as fear and worry about cancer coming back or many other life burdens and concerns, may activate dormant cancer cells remaining in the body to form tumors again, researchers reported (https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.abb5817) in Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers introduced genetically engineered dormant lung cancer cells into mice that had activated immune systems with proinflammatory neutrophils, which are often elevated in the human body in response to stress. Most of the mice developed lung tumors, whereas a control group of mice without an immune system used for comparison did not.

However, drugs currently on the market may be able to reduce the risk. When the researchers treated the mice with beta blockers or tasquinimod (a prostate cancer agent with orphan drug approval), both of which block stress hormones in the body, the cancer cells remained dormant.

Much more studies are needed to truly understand the process and its implication for cancer recurrence in humans, but the findings “demonstrate a mechanism linking stress and specific neutrophil activation with early recurrence in cancer,” the researchers said (https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.abb5817).

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