A US-based Calcutta University alumnus has revealed a mechanism whereby the brain can prevent the progression of cancer.
Dr. Dipak K. Sarkar, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University, says that the whole mechanism may be based on the production of the so-called "feel good" hormones in the brain.
He says that such hormones, scientifically known as beta-endorphin peptide (BEP), may help by providing a person respite from stress, which is known to speed-up tumour progression.
The researchers also points out that the "feel good" hormones in the brain that are released during exercise, a good conversation, and many other aspects of life that give humans pleasure.
"Our findings show promise for future therapeutic treatments for bolstering the immune function," said Dr. Sarkar, principal investigator of the research project, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Dr. Sarkar and his colleagues carried out a study to determine what role the "feel good" hormones might play in controlling the progression of tumour.
During the study, the researchers took neural stem cells, transformed them into BEP neurons by treating them with particular chemicals, and then transplanted them into brains of rats that had been given carcinogens to induce prostate tumors.
When the researchers tested tumour growth in the animals shortly afterwards, they observed that the BEP neurons had boosted the immune system by increasing the activity of particular immune cell types and decreasing inflammation.
The neurons also protected the rats against prostate cancer 90 per cent of the time, said the researchers.
According to them, the inserted BEP neurons also activated the "natural killer" (NK) cells that typically attack cancer cells in the body.
They added that the NK cells reduced inflammation around the cancer cells, thereby slowing down cancer cell growth and killing many of them.
"We are optimistic that this research can be applied to human medicine. Instead of transplanting cells, we will investigate whether we can increase BEP using a chemical approach," said Dr. Sarkar.