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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • survival;
  • group therapy;
  • psychotherapy;
  • endocrine;
  • cytokine

Abstract

Objective

The very name “psycho-oncology” implies interaction between brain and body. One of the most intriguing scientific questions for the field is whether or not living better may also mean living longer.

Methods

Randomized intervention trials examining this question will be reviewed.

Results

The majority show a survival advantage for patients randomized to psychologically effective interventions for individuals with a variety of cancers, including breast, melanoma, gastrointestinal, lymphoma, and lung cancers. Importantly, for breast and other cancers, when aggressive anti-tumor treatments are less effective, supportive approaches appear to become more useful. This is highlighted by a recent randomized clinical trial of palliative care for non-small cell lung cancer patients.There is growing evidence that disruption of circadian rhythms, including rest-activity patterns and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis function, affects cancer risk and progression. Women with metastatic breast cancer have flatter diurnal cortisol patterns than normal, and the degree of loss of daily variation in cortisol predicts earlier mortality. Mechanisms by which abnormal cortisol patterns affect metabolism, gene expression, and immune function are reviewed. The HPA hyperactivity associated with depression can produce elevated levels of cytokines that affect the brain. Tumor cells can, in turn, co-opt certain mediators of inflammation such as NFkB, interleukin-6, and angiogenic factors to promote metastasis. Also, exposure to elevated levels of norepinephrine triggers release of vascular endothelial growth factor, which facilitates tumor growth.

Conclusions

Therefore, the stress of advancing cancer and management of it is associated with endocrine, immune, and autonomic dysfunction that has consequences for host resistance to cancer progression.

Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.