Stress hormone may make PCa cells resistant to treatment

Apr 19, 2007

The stress hormone epinephrine causes changes in prostate cancer cells that may make them resistant to cell death, scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, report.

The stress hormone epinephrine causes changes in prostate cancer cells that may make them resistant to cell death, scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, report.

"These data imply that emotional stress may contribute to the development of cancer and may also reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatments," said George Kulik, DVM, PhD, senior researcher on the project.

The goal of the current study, which is reported online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, was to determine whether there is a direct link between stress hormones and changes in cancer cells.

Studying prostate cancer cells in the laboratory, Dr. Kulik and colleagues found that a protein called BAD, which causes cell death, becomes inactive when cancer cells are exposed to epinephrine. The connection between stress and prostate cancer has been largely unexplored. However, recent studies suggest that these laboratory findings may apply to cancer patients.

"A study from Canada showed that men who took beta-blockers for hypertension for at least 4 years had an 18% lower risk of prostate cancer," Dr. Kulik said. "These drugs block the effects of epinephrine, which could explain the finding. Another study of men after radical prostatectomy reported increased mood disturbances, which are often associated with elevated stress hormones.

"Although these studies do not directly address the role of stress hormones, they suggest that stress hormones may play an important role in prostate cancer."