Stress Gene Linked to Spread of Cancer

Man squeezing stress ball.
Stress genes may lead to cancer.

Stress can be a killer. Considered a contributing factor to many chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, a new study reported on has discovered a direct causal link between stress and the ability of cancer cells to metastasize and kill.

Researchers at The Ohio State University have linked the activation of the stress gene ATF3, a component of the body’s immune system, to the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body. Researchers believe the stress gene may also trigger metastasis in other types of cancer and could be a major cause of cancer fatalities.

The study emphasizes the critical link between cancer and the body’s immune system.

“If your body does not help cancer cells, they cannot spread as far. So really, the rest of the cells in the body help cancer cells to move, to set up shop at distant sites. And one of the unifying themes here is stress,” explained Tsonwin Hai, OSU professor of molecular and cellular biochemistry and the study’s senior author.

A normal stress response that occurs in cells of all types, activation of ATF3 triggers cell death, a therapeutic¬†immune system response used to eliminate irrevocably damaged cells. However, the new study indicates that cancer cells are somehow able to co-opt ATF3, throwing the body’s normal immune system response into chaos which allows cancer cells to escape the tumor area and spread.

When cancer attacks, Issels integrated immunotherapy brings the immune system back into balance so it can more effectively protect the body against cancer stressors and prevent the activation of cancer triggers.