STRESS, DEPRESSION LINKED TO TUMOR GROWTH
Supporting the notion that stress is bad for your health, Fox Chase researchers found that patients who reported feeling stressed had higher levels of vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, a protein that can stimulate tumor growth. The researchers asked 37 patients newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer about their psychosocial functioning, then measured their levels of VEGF. More highly stressed or depressed patients expressed more VEGF in tumor tissue—and higher VEGF levels were, in turn, associated with shorter disease-free survival. The findings suggest that “your emotional state may be associated with biological processes that can impact tumor activity,” says behavioral researcher Carolyn Y. Fang.
ASPIRIN MAY CUT PROSTATE CANCER RECURRENCE
Aspirin improves outcomes in prostate cancer patients who have received radiation therapy, according to a study by Fox Chase researchers. Among more than 2,000 patients, those who took aspirin during or after radiation therapy were significantly less likely to see an increase in their prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, level—a sign of recurrence—within 10 years. “It’s possible aspirin therapy is making the radiation more effective or preventing the cancer from spreading,” says radiation oncologist Mark Buyyounouski. Of the men who took aspirin, 31 percent experienced a recurrence, compared to 39 percent of those who didn’t.
PROTEIN PROVIDES CLUES TO DRUG RESISTANCE
A Fox Chase discovery could help to overcome a common problem in cancer treatment: resistance to anti-cancer drugs. Scientists have identified a protein known as Abcc10 that appears to play a key role in resistance to drugs used to treat breast, ovarian, lung, and other cancers. The protein works by pumping the drugs out of cells. The findings may help to develop inhibitors of the protein’s activity, perhaps countering drug resistance and extending the effectiveness of treatments. “This protein may be a clinically relevant target, but we need to do more studies to find out for sure,” notes molecular biophysicist Elizabeth A. Hopper-Borge.