A new study has revealed that stress might intensify the progression of melanoma tumors in patients with the particularly aggressive form of skin cancer.
For the study, Eric V. Yang, a research scientist at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR), Ohio State University exposed samples of three melanoma cell lines to the compound norepinephrine, a naturally occurring catecholamine that functions as a stress hormone.
They found that with increased stress, levels of norepinephrine increase in the bloodstream.
Yang and colleague Ronald Glaser were looked for changes in the levels of three proteins released by the cells.
They found that one of the proteins - vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF - plays a key role in stimulating the growth of new blood vessels needed to feed a growing tumor, a process called angiogenesis.
The other two proteins, Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-8, are both involved in fostering tumor growth.
"We noticed that all three of these proteins increased in response to the norepinephrine," Yang explained.
He added that in the C8161 cells that represented the most aggressive and advanced form of melanoma "we got a 2,000 percent increase in IL-6. In untreated samples from this cell line, you normally can't detect any IL-6 at all.
The researchers suggest that use of commonly prescribed blood pressure medicines might slow the development of those tumors and therefore improve these patients' quality of life.
They found that when the beta-blockers did bind to the receptors, the production of the three proteins reduced significantly, suggesting that in patients with melanoma, using these types of medications might be used to slow the progression of the disease in patients.
The study is published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.