According to an article from Columbia University Medical Center, stress could increase the growth of pancreatic cancer by stimulating the release of hormones. A mouse model of the disease also suggested that beta blockers, which are medications that stop the release of hormones associated with stress, could be a significant benefit to cancer patients by increasing rates of survival.
The potential benefit of beta blockers was further reinforced by additional data that demonstrated that pancreatic cancer patients that were using beta blocker medications for other reasons lived around two thirds longer than that did not use them. The release of hormones associated with stress, often termed ‘fight or flight,’ stimulates the creation of nerve cells within the pancreas. It is the development of these nerve cells that can accelerate the growth of pancreatic cancer. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.
Although more connections are being made all the time, the relationship between physical and mental health and their ability to affect one another is not always well understood in some cases. However, this is far from the first study to highlight a link between emotional or psychological stress and the development of tumors. This evidence was first met with skepticism by scientists. Some were cautious about the idea because stress levels were difficult to meaningfully quantify.
In the study, mice that were genetically susceptible to developing tumors in the pancreas were split into a group that were introduced to a stressful environment and a control that did not experience stress. After several months, the 38% of the mice exposed to stress developed lesions on the pancreas that are a precursor to cancer. No lesions were found in the control group. The mouse model also showed that mice treated with both chemotherapy and beta blockers were able to live longer than mice that only received chemotherapy.
Dr. Timothy Wang, one of the leaders of the study, said that while the data suggests that beta blockers could be of use in pancreatic cancer treatment, it would be necessary to conduct more clinical trials before they could begin use as part of treatment. The study also places new emphasis on the need to manage stress levels in cancer patients. While a diagnosis can be daunting, the research suggests that a positive perspective could result in demonstrably better survival.