Social support linked to prognostic marker for ovarian cancer

A new study funded by the National Cancer Institute reports that social support and other behavioral factors are related to levels of a circulating protein, which at high levels is associated with a poor prognosis in advanced ovarian cancer. The study, published in the July 15, 2005 issue of CANCER (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/cancer-newsroom), a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, reports that factors that improved quality life, such as social support, were associated with low levels of a protein released by both immune cells and tumor cells, called interleukin 6 (IL-6). In contrast, negative quality of life factors were associated with higher IL-6 levels. The study is the first to find this association both in the peripheral blood and in the vicinity of the tumor.

IL-6 is an inflammatory cytokine that in healthy young people is almost undetectable. Levels of IL-6 increase with age, chronic psychological stress, and disease. Previous studies in humans and laboratory animals have shown IL-6 levels are also influenced by behavioral factors.

IL-6 has previously been shown to promote tumor growth, and IL-6 levels are also prognostic in ovarian cancer, with elevated levels associated with higher mortality and metastatic disease. Because depression and chronic stress are commonly associated with ovarian cancer, and IL-6 levels are responsive to psychosocial factors, Erin S. Costanzo, M.A. from the University of Iowa and colleagues investigated whether IL-6 levels were linked to psychosocial factors in 61 women with advanced ovarian cancer.

While levels of IL-6 and the incidence of depression were elevated in these patients, those who reported strong social attachments had significantly lower levels of IL-6 in both the blood and in the ascites fluid surrounding the tumor. Women with weak social attachments had 1.7 times more IL-6 in the circulating bloodstream

Contact: David Greenberg
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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