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Stress and depression are associated with shorter survival in head and neck cancer patients
Date:4/28/2011

WASHINGTON, DC (April 28, 2011)Studies have shown that stress can affect the immune system and weaken the body's defense against infection and disease. In cancer patients this stress can also affect a tumor's ability to grow and spread. However, the biological mechanisms that underlie such associations are not well understood. Now, researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center find that poor psychosocial functioning is associated with greater vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expressiona signaling protein that not only stimulates tumor growth, but is also associated with shorter disease-free survival in head and neck cancer patients.

"There is research showing that high VEGF expression in other cancers, such as ovarian, is associated with psychosocial factors," says Carolyn Fang, Ph.D., Co-Leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase, who will be presenting the study at the 32nd Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine on Thursday, April 28th. "This information coupled with what we already know about VEGF promoting tumor aggressiveness and poorer prognosis in head and neck cancer patients, certainly gave us a reason to look at this biomarker."

VEGF not only plays a pivotal role in angiogenesis, but it is also regulated by stress hormones and key cytokinesa category of signaling molecules used extensively in intercellular communication.

In the current study, Fang and colleagues looked at 37 newly diagnosed, pre-surgical head and neck cancer patients, to see if psychosocial functioning, such as perceived stress and depressive factors, was associated with VEGF, a biological pathway relating to patient outcomes. The patients were predominantly male (70.3%), and approximately 57-years-old, with primary tumor sites of the oral cavity (65.9%), larynx (19.9%), and oropharynx (13.5%). Over 40% of them were classified as having early-stage disease.

Each patient was given a
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Contact: Frank Hoke
Franklin.Hoke@fccc.edu
215-728-2700
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert

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