Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Socially active environment can cause cancer tumors to shrink and even disappear

Making Friends Can Cause You To Live Longer
by S. L. Baker, features writer

Submitted by Ahk Yehoeshahfaht - London

The new study, published in the July 9th issues of the journal Cell found that when mice with cancer were given enriched living conditions and a boost in their social life, their tumors shrank -- and some of their cancers disappeared completely.

That's powerful evidence, the scientists say, that social connections and an individual's mental state, play an important role in the way the body responds to malignancies. "Animals' interaction with the environment has a profound influence on the growth of cancer -- more than we knew was possible," Matthew During, who headed the study, said in a statement to the press.

The lab rodents were originally housed in groups of about five, given all the food they wanted and allowed to play all day. However, for the research project, mice with cancer were placed in an even better, enriched environment. They had bigger living groups with 15 to 20 other animals to interact with. They also had more space and extra toys, hiding places and running wheels.

During and his colleague, Lei Cao, found that malignant tumors in animals living in this enriched environment started to shrink. In fact, tumors decreased by an impressive 77 percent in mass and decreased in volume by 43 percent, the researchers report. Moreover, five percent of mice with cancer showed no evidence of the disease at all after just three weeks of living in their new home. That seemingly spontaneous cancer cure never happened in control animals kept in standard housing.

So what specifically is going on here that impacts cancer? Animals in a regular mice environment in the lab who exercised more didn't experience improvements in their cancer, so the scientists say more exercise isn't the total explanation. Instead, they think the complex social dimension in the new living arrangement was apparently the key.

The enriched living environment appears to have sparked more, but apparently cancer-fighting, stress in the cancer-stricken mice. The animals showed higher levels of stress hormones called glucocorticoids. What this means, the researchers said in statement to the media, is that low levels of stress, or certain kinds of stress, are probably beneficial.

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