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Short-term stress enhances anti-tumor activity in mice, Stanford study shows
Date:9/21/2009

ncement of immunity as we have seen in our non-cancer-related studies," said Dhabhar, explaining why tumor development appeared to lag in the stressed mice. "However, acute stress did not lower tumor burden beyond week 26. We are in the process of determining why."

Other stress-induced changes lingered for weeks, however. The researchers found that, during the same time period, the skin of the stressed mice had higher levels of immune-activating genes than did the control group -- almost as if the mice were preparing for battle.

"Evolutionarily, it makes sense," said Dhabhar. "In nature, stress and immune activity are typically coupled. It's like a lion chasing and wounding a gazelle. Nature taps into this stress response to give a boost to the immune system in the face of danger." He compared the effect to how drug-makers often increase the potency of vaccines by including generic immune-activating molecules called adjuvants.

As intriguing as the results are, Dhabhar doesn't really imagine that we'll be confining human patients in straightjackets or tossing them in front of an intimidating audience as a therapeutic technique any time soon (thank goodness!). But he is convinced that acute stress may be better for us than most of us think, and that bio-behavioral interventions are worth investigating. As long as you can return to a normal, psycho-physiological resting state within a few hours of a stressful event, you'll probably be fine.

"The key is not to let the stress response linger," he said. To understand why, Dhabhar and his colleagues are now probing more deeply into the biological basis of these protective effects of the acute stress response.

"What we want to do now is to fine-tune the stress dynamics so that we can get maximal benefits," he said. "We are working to determine what molecules and cells are involved, and when. It may be possible one day to harness these protective effects by behaviorally or pharmac
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Contact: Ruthann Richter
richter1@stanford.edu
650-725-8047
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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