Study shows how stress increases breast cancer metastasis

Researchers suggest aggressive breast cancer could be slowed by targeting a specific signalling loop.

Micrograph of breast cancer cells

Research has shown that stress can accelerate the progression of breast cancer through activation of beta-adrenoceptors. In addition, for patients with aggressive triple-negative breast cancer, treatment with beta-blockers reduces relapses and improves survival. 

Because the underlying mechanisms for this effect are unclear, researchers from Monash University in Victoria, Australia, have studied cells from a highly metastatic form of breast cancer. 

The team found one beta-adrenoceptor in particular – the beta-2 subtype – was highly expressed in these cancer cells, and was the only subtype to have an effect on intracellular signalling pathways. Activation of an intracellular ‘feedforward loop’ via this receptor increased the invasive abilities of the cells. 

The researchers, reporting their findings in the FASEB Journal (2016;30:1144-1154)[1]
, suggest the results could lead to new treatments for aggressive breast cancer that target this signalling loop.


[1] Pon CK, Lane JR, Sloan EK, et al. The b2-adrenoceptor activates a positive cAMP-calcium feedforward loop to drive breast cancer cell invasion. The FASEB Journal 2016; 30: 1144-1154. doi: 10.1096/fj.15-277798.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Study shows how stress increases breast cancer metastasis;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20200837

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