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Stress hormones may play new role in speeding up cancer growth

COLUMBUS , Ohio -- New research here suggests that hormones produced as during periods of stress may increase the growth rate of a particularly nasty kind of cancer.

The study showed that an increase in norepinephrine, a stress hormone, can stimulate tumor cells to produce two compounds. These compounds can break down of the tissue around the tumor cells and allow the cells to more easily move into the bloodstream. From there, they can travel to another location in the body to form additional tumors, a process called metastasis.

The research also suggests the same hormone can also stimulate the tumor cells to release another compound that can aid in the growth of new blood vessels that feed cancer cells, hastening the growth and spread of the disease. The work was reported in the latest issue of the journal Cancer Research.

"This opens up an entirely new way of looking at stress and cancer that's different from current interpretations," explained Ronald Glaser, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University .

Glaser and Eric Yang, a research scientist in the same institute, focused on the role of these three compounds. Two of them, both matrix metalloproteinases -- MMP-2 and MMP-9 -- play a role in breaking down the scaffolding that cells attach to in order to maintain their shape. The third compound, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), is important in the growth of new blood vessels into tumor cells.

Earlier work by researcher Anil Sood at the University of Texas had shown that the same stress hormones can stimulate ovarian tumor cells to produce these three compounds. The key to that discovery was that the two stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine would bind to places on the surface of ovarian cancer cells, called adrenergic receptors, and stimulate the release OF MMP-2, MMP-9 and VEGF w
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Contact: Ronald Glaser
Glaser.1@osu.edu
614-292-5526
Ohio State University
1-Nov-2006


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