Date Published: 1 June 2011

Stress response and the metastasis of breast cancer.

Health News from Ireland (Eire)

Researchers based at Trinity College Dublin have discovered that blocking a particular stress response can significantly reduce the metastasis (or spread) of breast cancer.

Recently published research lead by Dr Ian Barron, a HRB Postdoctoral Fellow in Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) looked at women diagnosed with breast cancer in Ireland between 2000 and 2007. Using data from the National Cancer Registry, and the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Services, they found that those taking drugs that blocked a particular hormone related stress pathway had a much lower risk of dying from their cancer.

According to Dr Barron,

" For patients with cancer, higher levels of stress are associated with more frequent disease recurrence, faster disease progression and higher rates of death from cancer. Some lab based studies have suggested how stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, could play a role in this process. Ours is the first study in humans to show that blocking this stress response significantly reduces the risk of cancer spreading or metastasising. Because the majority of all cancer deaths are due to the growth of tumour metastases, this research could have significant implications for clinical practice."

The research found that when compared to control groups;

  • Women taking the stress hormone blocking drugs in the year prior to their cancer diagnosis were less likely to be diagnosed with invasive or metastatic breast cancer than women who were not taking it.
  • Women continuing to take the drug after their diagnosis were considerably less likely to die from the disease in the 5 years following diagnosis.

Enda Connolly, Chief Executive of the Health Research Board added,

" This is a great example of the high quality health research conducted in Ireland. As the findings clearly demonstrate, it has positive implications for patient care and patient outcomes and could have major international impact."


More about this research into Beta Blockers and Breast Cancer Mortality:

Cancer and Stress:
Testing Hypotheses:
Results of the Study:
What does this mean ?

Reference to Paper:
Thomas I. Barron, Roisin M. Connolly, Linda Sharp, Kathleen Bennett and Kala Visvanathan, "Beta Blockers and Breast Cancer Mortality: A Population-Based Study", Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31 May 2011.

Source: Health Research Board (Ireland). - and associated information available as downloads.

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