High-anxious individuals show increased chronic stress burden, decreased protective immunity, and increased cancer progression in a mouse model of squamous cell carcinoma.

Firdaus S. Dhabhar, Alison N. Saul, Tyson H. Holmes, Christine Daugherty, Eric Neri, Jean M. Tillie, Donna Kusewitt, Tatiana M. Oberyszyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

In spite of widespread anecdotal and scientific evidence much remains to be understood about the long-suspected connection between psychological factors and susceptibility to cancer. The skin is the most common site of cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the US, with approximately 2-3 million cases of non-melanoma cancers occurring each year worldwide. We hypothesized that a high-anxious, stress-prone behavioral phenotype would result in a higher chronic stress burden, lower protective-immunity, and increased progression of the immuno-responsive skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma. SKH1 mice were phenotyped as high- or low-anxious at baseline, and subsequently exposed to ultraviolet-B light (1 minimal erythemal dose (MED), 3 times/week, 10-weeks). The significant strengths of this cancer model are that it uses a normal, immunocompetent, outbred strain, without surgery/injection of exogenous tumor cells/cell lines, and produces lesions that resemble human tumors. Tumors were counted weekly (primary outcome), and tissues collected during early and late phases of tumor development. Chemokine/cytokine gene-expression was quantified by PCR, tumor-infiltrating helper (Th), cytolytic (CTL), and regulatory (Treg) T cells by immunohistochemistry, lymph node T and B cells by flow cytometry, adrenal and plasma corticosterone and tissue vascular-endothelial-growth-factor (VEGF) by ELISA. High-anxious mice showed a higher tumor burden during all phases of tumor development. They also showed: higher corticosterone levels (indicating greater chronic stress burden), increased CCL22 expression and Treg infiltration (increased tumor-recruited immuno-suppression), lower CTACK/CCL27, IL-12, and IFN-γ gene-expression and lower numbers of tumor infiltrating Th and CTLs (suppressed protective immunity), and higher VEGF concentrations (increased tumor angiogenesis/invasion/metastasis). These results suggest that the deleterious effects of high trait anxiety could be: exacerbated by life-stressors, accentuated by the stress of cancer diagnosis/treatment, and mediate increased tumor progression and/or metastasis. Therefore, it may be beneficial to investigate the use of chemotherapy-compatible anxiolytic treatments immediately following cancer diagnosis, and during cancer treatment/survivorship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e33069
JournalPloS one
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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