Understanding stress and breast cancer metastasis

Researchers from the University of Basel have helped to unravel the relationship between stress hormones and cancer metastasis. Using a rodent model of triple negative breast cancer, the scientists found that metastases had increased levels of glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Mice with metastases also had higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol, which increased GR levels. This resulted in increased colonization and heterogeneity of the cancer cells — and ultimately, shortened survival.

The study, published in Nature, further reported that some anti-inflammatory medicines used during cancer treatment – for example, glucocorticoid hormones such as dexamethasone – can actually decrease the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The authors suggest caution when prescribing such medicines to breast cancer patients.

Reducing the level of GR may also be a new target for anti-cancer treatment in the future. For more details, see the press release.