After the surgical removal of a malignant tumor, the chance that cancer will re-appear in a different location of the body remains high. But new research from Tel Aviv University, in a bold new field called Psychoneuroimmunology, may prevent those cancer cells from taking root again and the key to the treatment is stress reduction.
A new study led by Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu, from Tel Aviv Universitys Department of Psychology, has shown scientifically that psychological and physiological stress prior to, during and after surgery has a biological impact that impairs immune system functioning. This impairment bears down on disease progression, he says, especially at the critical point during oncological surgery when a primary tumor is being removed.
The study was published in the journal Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity (2007). The results are expected to influence cancer intervention programs in the future.
Effects of Fear
The psychological stressors of surgery deal a blow to the immune system, but this is hardly discussed in the medical community, says Prof. Ben-Eliyahu. Ours is among the first studies to show that psychological fear may be no less important than real physiological tissue damage in suppressing immune competence.
The surprising part of Prof. Ben-Eliyahu's studies is that stress hormones such as adrenaline, which are released before and during surgery, "underlie much of the devastating effects of surgery on immune competence," says Prof. Ben-Eliyahu.
Until now, doctors assumed that the immune system was weakened due to tissue damage and the bodys responses to it. A weak immune system is one of the major factors that promotes cancer metastases after an operation, explains Prof. Ben-Eliyahu.
Timing is everything after cancer surgery, says Prof. Ben-Eliyahu. There is a short window of opportunity, about a week after surgery, when the immune system needs to be functioning maximally in
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University