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IPFS News Link • Health and Physical Fitness

Stress Strongly Fuels Cancer's Deadly Spread

•, by Brain Tomorrow Staff

The groundbreaking research, conducted on mice, reveals that chronic stress not only paves the way for cancer to spread, especially to the lungs, but also significantly alters the body's internal environment to favor this deadly progression.

For many cancer patients, the journey is fraught with anxiety and fear, not just about their prognosis but also about the grueling treatments ahead. This isn't just a mental burden; it's a physiological one that sets off a domino effect within the body, deeply impacting everything from memory and cognition to the health of the heart, gut, and immune system.

"Stress is something we cannot really avoid in cancer patients," says Xue-Yan He, a former postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor, in a statement. "You can imagine if you are diagnosed, you cannot stop thinking about the disease or insurance or family. So it is very important to understand how stress works on us."

At the heart of this stress response is the release of glucocorticoids, a type of stress hormone that, while crucial for managing stress, plays a pivotal role in making the body a more hospitable place for cancer to spread.

The study by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory illustrates how chronic stress induces a notable shift in the body's circadian rhythm, particularly affecting neutrophils, a type of white blood cell. These stressed neutrophils start forming something called neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), which are essentially sticky webs of DNA that can trap pathogens. However, in the case of cancer, these NETs do not serve their usual protective role. Instead, they create a welcoming environment for cancer cells to settle and grow in new parts of the body, like the lungs.