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Stress triggers signaling pathway that leads to spread of ovarian cancer

Promise - Spring 2013

MD Anderson scientists have discovered the signaling pathway whereby a master regulator of cancer cell proteins – known as Src – leads to ovarian cancer progression when exposed to stress hormones. Reported in Nature Communications, the study found that beta blocker drugs mitigate this effect and reduce cancer deaths by an average of 17%.

Anil Sood, M.D., center, co-leader of MD Anderson's breast and ovarian cancers moon shot with, from left, Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D., and Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., says a recent study on the role of stress hormones in ovarian cancer progression is "a major step." Photo by F. Carter Smith“When Src is triggered by stress, it works like a dam letting out water that causes a flood downstream,” says Anil Sood, M.D., professor in MD Anderson’s departments of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and Cancer Biology.

Future research will look at other biological mechanisms that may be affected by stress.

“This is a major step forward in understanding the biology and impact of stress on cancer progression, and it opens the door to study drugs that could inhibit this unique signaling pathway,” says Sood.

Research funding came from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, Zarrow Foundation, Department of Defense, Betty Ann Asche Murray Distinguished Professorship, Marcus Foundation, RGK Foundation, Gilder Foundation, C.G. Johnson Jr. estate, Laura and John Arnold Foundation and Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program.

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