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How stress affects cancer growth—and how vitamin C can suppress it

Stress-induced cancer could be reversed with vitamin C
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Reprinted with the kind permission of Life Extension.

February 20 2019. Research reported on January 28, 2019 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation details the effect of chronic stress on cancer and shows how stress-induced cancer could be reversed with vitamin C.

Quentin Liu of Dalian Medical University in China and colleagues demonstrated that epinephrine (adrenalin), a hormone released during stress, promoted stem-like properties in breast cancer cells. Breast cancer stem cells can be resistant to treatment and may hinder eradication of the disease. “You can kill all the cells you want in a tumor, but if the stem cells, or mother cells, are not killed, then the tumor is going to grow and metastasize,” explained coauthor Keith Kelley, who is an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois.

In the current study, immunodeficient mice that were exposed to stressful conditions for one week were inoculated with human or mouse breast cancer cells. The animals were then exposed to stressful or non-stressful conditions for a month. Animals exposed to stress for the duration of the experiment exhibited behaviors consistent with anxiety and depression and had higher levels of epinephrine than the other mice. They also had larger tumors that grew more rapidly and had more cancer stem cells. However, when the stressed mice were given a compound that inactivated epinephrine receptors, tumors were smaller and had fewer stem cells.

When the team evaluated the effects of various cancer treatments in cultured breast cancer cells, vitamin C was found to suppress lactate dehydrogenase, an enzyme that is increased by epinephrine. Injection of the vitamin into stressed mice resulted in tumor shrinkage.

“Taken together, these findings show that vitamin C might be a novel and effective therapeutic agent for targeting cancer in patients undergoing chronic stress,” Dr Liu concluded.

—D Dye

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