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Less stress can slow tumour growth in people with breast cancer

Research at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences has discovered that stress affects cancer cells and the surrounding tissues.

The two-year study published in Cancer Clinical Research trialled the use of beta-blockers in women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and found that blocking stress made cancer cells less likely to spread.

Beta-blockers stop the body from hearing adrenaline, which limits the body’s response to physical and emotional stress. Beta-blockers have been used routinely for decades to treat high blood pressure and have few negative side effects.

‘In this study, I’ve channelled my curiosity about the interplay between stress and cancer into a therapeutic technique that could significantly improve cancer outcomes and quality of life for people with breast cancer,’ Lead Investigator and Drug Discovery Biologist Associate Professor Erica Sloan explained.

‘Not only did beta-blockers turn off genes that help the cancer spread, they also supported the recruitment of cancer-fighting immune cells to the cancer,’ she added. ‘This is exciting as it suggests beta-blockers could be used to enhance existing cancer treatments.’

Additional research is required to identifying exactly when and how stress-limiting pharmaceuticals should be administered, and to understand the best way to incorporate them with standard cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. 

Associate Professor Sloan hopes the approach can be tested in a large-scale clinical trial in future. Breast cancer consumer advocacy groups, including Pink Hope, are watching with interest. 

Less stress can slow tumour growth in people with breast cancer