February 22, 2019 - Cancer is a word that makes people feel scared and anxious. As a result, many women with cancer and treatment experience chronic stress and depression. Scientists have found that stress accelerates cancer progression in humans and rodents, but the underlying mechanism is unclear.
Recently, a study published in Journal of Clinical Investigation by Dalian Medical University and Sun Yat-sen University revealed the secret: the stress hormone adrenaline triggered a series of biochemical reactions, which led to the growth and metastasis of cancer cells.
In this study, researchers first demonstrated the effect of chronic stress on the growth of cancer stem cells, which has not been the focus of previous studies. The researchers used an immunodeficient mouse model and found that chronic stress-induced epinephrine promoted the production of cancer stem cell-like properties in breast cancer cells, mainly through the replacement of lactate dehydrogenase A (ALDHA) metabolic pathway.
Chronic stress-induced adrenaline activates LDHA to produce lactic acid and alter pH, which leads to the deubiquitination of USP28-mediated MYC to enhance its stability. SLUG enhancers are subsequently activated by MYC, which will prompt cancer cells to produce breast cancer stem cell-like properties.
Using drug screening tests targeting LDHA, researchers have found that vitamin C reverses a stem cell-like feature induced by chronic stress. These findings indicate the importance of physiological factors in promoting stem cell-like properties in breast cancer cells. Therefore, vitamin C, which inhibits LDHA, may be an effective drug against stress-related breast cancer.