Stress receptor spreads breast cancer

Stress receptor spreads breast cancer

Stress is known to cause the production of neuropeptides in the brain, stimulating hormones that turn on Cox-2 pathways and increase metastasis; now research shows neurotransmitters directly stimulate growth and migration of cancer cells in women with breast cancer.

There is more and more research evidence that stress causes and spreads cancer at the cellular level. Published online in the International Journal of Cancer, research from scientists at The University of Western Ontario has taken yet another step toward confirming the stress causes cancer effect.

Studying a branch of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system, which talks to cells in various organs throughout the body, they found that when the sympathetic nervous system is activated, for example during times of stress, it communicates with receptors on cells through the release of neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and neuropeptide Y or NPY. This is a normal response that prepares the body for fight or flight. In this case, Dwayne Jackson of the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Biomedical Engineering and the team showed that the neurotransmitter stimulates cancer cell growth and migration in breast cancer.

"Since there is a very dense supply of sympathetic nerves in the female breast, it would be reasonable to suspect that NPY may be released in greater amounts in the breasts of those at risk for breast cancer. Thus, we postulated if cancer cells are present and they respond to NPY, then this neuropeptide and its receptors would form a functional link between stress and breast cancer progression.

Once we had established that breast cancer cells express the receptors for NPY, then we went through a set of experiments that looked at the functional consequences of activating them. We found NPY greatly accelerates cell growth as well as cell migration and these are two important steps in primary tumour growth, as well as in metastasis," concluded the researchers(1).

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and founder of CANCERactive added, "You can go back to John Vane, who won a Nobel Prize and a knighthood in 1982 for his work on eicosanoids and prostaglandins - he showed clearly back then that stress hormones like cortisol, turned on the production of inflammatory enzymes via the Cox-2 system; and this inflammation helped cancer to spread. The issue now is if stress can make my cancer worse, can a positive mindset also heal me?"

Go to: CANCERactive Stress Management Section - Stress Management aids cancer survival


  1. Philip J. Medeiros, Baraa K. Al-Khazraji, Nicole M. Novielli, Lynne M. Postovit, Ann F. Chambers, Dwayne N. Jackson. Neuropeptide Y stimulates proliferation and migration in the 4T1 breast cancer cell lineInternational Journal of Cancer, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/ijc.26350


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