Challenges Of “Enriched Environment” Significantly Curb Cancer Growth In Mice

Living in an environment rich with physical, mental and social stimulation – a setting that causes mild stress – appears by itself to curb cancer growth in mice, according to a new study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

Matthew During, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Neuroscience, Neurological Surgery & Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics, College of Medicine, Ohio State Univ. Medical Center

Living in an environment rich with physical, mental and social stimulation – a setting that causes mild stress – appears by itself to curb cancer growth in mice, according to a new study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

The animal study, published as the lead cover story of the July 9 issue of the journal Cell, also shows how this effect happens and that it might have therapeutic use.

The researchers discovered that an enriched environment activates a nervous-system pathway used by the brain to talk to fat tissue. That pathway, called the hypothalamicsympathoneuraladipocyte (HSA) axis tells fat cells to stop releasing a hormone called leptin into the bloodstream. Leptin normally helps restrain appetite, but this study discovered that it also accelerates cancer growth.

The enriched environment had the same cancer-curbing influence in models of melanoma and colon cancer.

“People tend to think that cancer survivors should avoid stress, but our data suggests that this is not completely true,” says study leader Dr. Matthew J. During, professor of neuroscience, of neurological surgery and of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics.

“The anti-cancer effect we observed in this study was not due simply to increased activity by the animals, but rather it was induced by social and physical challenges that cause mild stress, as measured by the release of hormones from the adrenal.

“But the most dramatic hormonal change we observed was the drop in leptin from fat after enhanced housing conditions activated the HSA pathway. That pathway is also present in humans, where it is likely to be activated by a more complex and challenging life,” he adds.

The enriched environment created for this study housed 20 mice in large containers equipped with toys, hiding places and running wheels, along with unlimited food and water. Control mice were housed in groups of five in smaller, standard laboratory containers with no toys but with unlimited food and water.

The researchers injected human melanoma cells under the skin in both sets of animals. After three weeks of enriched housing, mice had tumors that were about half the size of those in control mice. After six weeks of enrichment, the tumors dropped to approximately one-fifth the size of those in control animals, and almost 20 percent of enriched-group animals had no visible tumors. In contrast, all of the control animals had visible tumors.

Investigating this effect further, During and his colleagues looked for changes in several metabolic hormones in the blood. Notably, the hormone leptin showed a dramatic drop in the enriched group.

A series of experiments demonstrated that leptin and the nervous system pathway really did influence tumor growth.

Looking closely at the region of the brain called the hypothalamus, the researchers found that a gene called BDNF, which plays an important role in controlling food intake and energy balance, was much more active in the enriched group.

Transplanting extra copies of this gene into the hypothalamus of mice in standard housing mimicked the effects of the enriched environment and reduced the size of the tumors in these animals by 75 percent. Such an intervention is also possible clinically and could potentially be developed into a human therapeutic. Blocking the gene, on the other hand, cancelled this effect and caused even enriched animals to develop large tumors.

“This is the first time anyone has shown that putting a single gene into the brain could have a dramatic impact on cancer,” During says.

Next, they studied a strain of mice that was unable to make leptin and so lacked the hormone altogether. When they infused these animals with leptin, they developed melanoma tumors that were 40 percent larger than those in similar animals infused with a saline solution.

An enriched environment also produced a similar cancer-controlling effect in two colon-cancer models. In one of these, tumors develop spontaneously in the intestine; in the other, visible tumors develop after cancer cells are injected under the skin.

Using the second model, researchers discovered that the anti-cancer effect occurred when animals were placed in the enriched environment six days after visible tumors were well established.

“This finding suggests that such an enriched environment might have therapeutic importance,” During says.

During notes that increased physical activity – running in a wheel – alone did not produce the anti-cancer effect or activate the HSA axis. Increased activity did reduce levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in control animals, whereas levels of this hormone rose in animals in enriched housing, an outcome likely due to the challenges and social conflicts associated with larger and more complex group housing.

“Overall, our study suggests that an environmental or genetic activation of this nervous system pathway leads to a marked drop in serum leptin levels, and that this inhibits tumor growth.”

Funding from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke supported this research.

Other researchers involved in this study were first and co-corresponding author Lei Cao, as well as Xianglan Liu, En-Ju D Lin, Chuansong Wang, Eugene Choi and Veronique Riban with The Ohio State University; and Benjamin Lin with Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

About the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center- Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (http://cancer.osu.edu) is one of only 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 20 cancer hospitals in the nation, The James is the 180-bed adult patient-care component of the cancer program at The Ohio State University. The OSUCCC-James is one of only seven funded programs in the country approved by the NCI to conduct both Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

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Libby’s H*O*P*E* to Present At NOCC 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo (REJUVENATE Finding Balance)

On March 20, 2010, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (Maryland Chapter) will hold its 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo entitled, REJUVENATE Finding Balance (NOCC Rejuvenate), at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel. … On behalf of Libby’s H*O*P*E*™, I will conduct a seminar as part of Session II entitled, A Patient Advocate’s Perspective on the Importance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Related On-line Resources.

On March 20, 2010, the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (Maryland Chapter) will hold its 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo entitled, REJUVENATE Finding Balance (NOCC Rejuvenate), at the Sheraton Annapolis Hotel. NOCC Rejuvenate is sponsored by the National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Connection and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.  Additional funding was also provided through a grant from the Maryland Attorney General Settlement.

NOCC Rejuvenate is designed to appeal to all women who want to rejuvenate their mind, body and spirit. The event is divided into three sessions. Each session offers seven to eight different seminars for attendees. The seminars address a variety of topics including make-up and skin care, going green, photography, plastic surgery, decorating, fashion, finance, retirement solutions, nutrition, fitness, and holistic approaches to wellness. A list of all event seminars is provided below.

Informative seminars about ovarian and breast cancer are offered as part of each session. Knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, the screening guidelines for breast cancer, and the basics about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, could save your life or the life of someone you love.  On behalf of Libby’s H*O*P*E*™, I will conduct a seminar as part of Session II entitled, A Patient Advocate’s Perspective on the Importance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Related On-line Resources.  My presentation will address the genesis of the Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ website; highlight critical ovarian cancer awareness information; summarize available online ovarian cancer and cancer-related resources; describe stories of hope involving ovarian cancer survivors and their families; and explain how each individual can make a difference in the fight against ovarian cancer.

NOCC Rejuvenate also targets cancer survivors. The devastating effects of these diseases can rob women of hope and peace. This event will offer an opportunity for survivors to reinvent their self-image and gain more knowledge, offering a sense of hope and a chance to connect with other survivors.

An exhibitor’s area will be offered at the event. This area will include informational tables as well as vendor tables that have been specifically chosen to meet the overarching vision of the event. At the completion of the three event sessions, a nutritious lunch will be served while information is provided on the signs and symptoms of ovarian and breast cancer.

NOCC 6th Annual Women's Health Expo

What:  National Ovarian Cancer Coalition 6th Annual Women’s Health Expo entitled, REJUVENTE Finding Balance (click here to view event brochure, including mail-in registration)

When: Saturday, March 20, 2010 (8:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.)

Where: Sheraton Annapolis Hotel, 173 Jennifer Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21401 (driving instructions).

Register: To register online click here.

Contact: Nancy Long (NOCC Maryland Chapter Co-President) at 443-433-2597, or email (click here).

Keynote Speaker:  Yarrow, The Energy Whisperer

Session I Presentations (9:30 A.M. – 10:30 A.M.)

  • Treating Cancer By Alternative Medicine
  • The Survivors’ Connection
  • The Skinny on Fat – Cancer Prevention Naturally
  • Interior Design in Difficult Times – Cost Saving Design Solutions
  • Relaxation & Healing
  • Identifying & Solving the Challenges of Baby Boomer Women
  • Cancer and The Healing Power of Forgiveness
  • Belly Dancing

Session II Presentations (10:45-11:45)

  • Dr. Zandra Cheng, Breast Surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center
  • Hereditary Syndromes That Include Ovarian and Breast Cancers
  • Facial & Body Rejuvenation
  • A Patient Advocate’s Perspective On the Importance of Ovarian Cancer Awareness & Related On-line Resources (Paul Cacciatore, Founder, Libby’s H*O*P*E*™)
  • Designing Green Interiors
  • Creating Better Images with the Camera You Own
  • Some Expert Fashion Tips
  • Yoga:  A Balanced Life
  • Relaxation & Healing

Session III Presentations (12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M.)

  • New Advances in Ovarian Cancer (William McGuire, M.D., Medical Director of The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute at Franklin Square Hospital)
  • What is My Daughter’s Chance of Getting My Cancer?
  • Planning for your Retirement Lifestyle:  The New Retirement
  • Super Health Begins with Super-food Nutrition
  • Around the World to Your Backyard
  • Balancing Your Life Wheel
  • Get Fit & Healthy with the Simple Rules of the Big 3
  • Relaxation & Healing

About the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

The mission of the NOCC is to raise awareness and increase education about ovarian cancer. NOCC is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer. Through national programs and local Chapter initiatives, the NOCC’s goal is to make more people aware of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer. In addition, the NOCC provides information to assist the newly diagnosed patient, to provide hope to survivors, and to support caregivers. NOCC programs are possible only with the help of its volunteers; committed men and women dedicated to the mission of the NOCC in communities across the country.  For more information go to http://www.ovarian.org/.

About the National Breast & Ovarian Cancer Connection

The mission of the NBOCC is to raise awareness and educate the general public about the link between breast and ovarian cancer. The organization is dedicated to teaching all women about their inherent risks and how to improve their chances of survival through early detection and research developments.  For more information go to http://www.nbocc.org/.

“Too Often We Underestimate The Power Of A Touch”*

One of the most comforting forms of support you can give a person with cancer is the use of touch. Family caregivers can significantly reduce symptoms in cancer patients at home through use of simple touch and massage techniques. These findings were recently reported at the 6th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

Study Shows Family Caregivers’ Simple Touch Techniques Reduce Symptoms in Cancer Patients

One of the most comforting forms of support you can give a person with cancer is the use of touch.  Family caregivers can significantly reduce symptoms in cancer patients at home through use of simple touch and massage techniques. These findings were recently reported at the 6th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

The study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, evaluated outcomes of a 78 minute DVD instructional program and illustrated manual in a sample of 97 patients and their caregivers. The multi-ethnic sample represented 21 types of cancer (nearly half with breast cancer) and all stages of disease. Caregivers included spouses, adult children, parents, siblings and friends. The project was conducted in Boston, Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon using English, Spanish and Chinese languages.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  — Leo F. Buscaglia, from his book entitled, Living, Loving & Learning.

William Collinge, Ph.D., MPH, President, Collinge and Associates. Dr. Collinge is a consultant, author, speaker and researcher in the field of integrative health care. He has served as a scientific review panelist for the National Institutes of Health in mind/body medicine, complementary therapies & health care services

According to the principal investigator, William Collinge, PhD, MPH, president of Collinge and Associates states, “Touch and massage are among the most effective forms of supportive care in cancer, but most patients cannot access professional practitioners of these methods on a regular basis. This study sought to determine whether family caregivers receiving brief home-based instruction could deliver some of the same benefits as professionals. It appears they can.”

In the study, couples were randomized to either an experimental group using the program, or an attention control group. Caregivers in the experimental group were asked to apply the instruction for at least 20 minutes, three or more times per week for a month. Those in the control group were assigned to read to the patient for the same amounts of time. Patients completed report cards before and after sessions rating their levels of pain, fatigue, stress/anxiety, nausea, depression, and other symptoms.

Results indicated significant reductions for all symptoms after both activities, indicating that companionship alone has a positive effect. However, while symptoms were reduced from 12-28% after reading, massage from the caregiver led to reductions of 29-44%. The greatest impact was on stress/anxiety (44% reduction), followed by pain (34%), fatigue (32%), depression (31%), and nausea (29%). Patients reporting an optional “other” symptom (e.g., headaches) saw reductions of 42% with massage. Caregivers in the massage group also showed gains in confidence and comfort with using touch and massage as forms of caregiving.

According to Collinge, “It appears that family members who receive simple instruction in safety and techniques can achieve some of the same results as professional practitioners. This has important implications not just for patient well-being, but for caregivers as well. Caregivers are at risk of distress themselves – they can feel helpless and frustrated when seeing a loved one suffer. This gives a way to make a difference for the patient, and at the same time increase their own satisfaction and effectiveness as a caregiver. It also appears to strengthen the relationship bond, which is important to both.”

The DVD program, titled Touch, Caring and Cancer: Simple Instruction for Family and Friends,  is expected to be released to the public during the week of November 22, 2009. The DVD program will be available in English, Spanish and Chinese. More information and video trailers are available at www.partnersinhealing.net.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

About Collinge and Associates

Collinge and Associates is an independent research and consulting organization based in Kittery, Maine. The group conducts research in complementary therapies for the National Institutes of Health, and does scientific review consulting for NIH and other organizations. Website: www.collinge.org.

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*Title Source:

The title was excerpted from the words of Leo F. Buscaglia that appear in his book Living, Loving & Learning. Buscaglia was a teacher in the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California (USC) in the late 1960’s. During his tenure at USC, one of Buscaglia’s students committed suicide.  The incident had a great impact on Buscaglia and led him to establish a non-credit class titled, Love 1A. The class led to lectures and a manuscript loosely based on what was shared in those weekly classes. The manuscript led to the publication of a book entitled, LOVE:  What life is all about.  Shortly thereafter, Leo Buscaglia’s presentations were taped by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and shown on television.  The PBS television presentations touched the hearts of many television viewers.  Buscaglia is often referred to as the granddaddy of motivational speakers. During his lifetime, Buscaglia was a popular speaker on television talk shows and the lecture circuit.  There was one point in time when five of his books appeared simultaneously on The New York Times Best Sellers List.

Ginger Quells Cancer Patients’ Chemotherapy-Related Nausea

“People with cancer can reduce post-chemotherapy nausea by 40 percent by using ginger supplements, along with standard anti-vomiting drugs, before undergoing treatment, according to scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center. …”

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Should Supplemental Antioxidant Administration Be Avoided During Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy?

” … ‘Despite some intriguing studies that have suggested the benefit of adjunctive antioxidant treatments in cancer patients, the totality of the available evidence is equivocal at best and leaves us with serious concerns about the potential for harm,’ Lawenda’s team concludes.”

Cancer patients should perhaps avoid taking antioxidant supplements, a review of clinical trial data suggests, because they may diminish the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Still, findings from different studies are conflicting, so further research is warranted to determine whether antioxidants can be safely taken during cancer therapy and whether they have any benefit.

Although research looking at antioxidant use during cancer treatment has been on-going on for nearly two decades, it remains a controversial topic, notes Dr. Brian D. Lawenda, from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California, and colleagues in their article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In researching the impact of antioxidant use on radiation therapy, the team identified three clinical studies that specifically addressed the topic. Results from the largest of the three trials suggested that antioxidant therapy reduced overall survival. However, there was evidence indicating that one antioxidant, amifostine, can protect certain healthy tissues from radiation damage without increasing resistance in cancerous tissue. Sixteen trials were identified that looked at the effects of antioxidant supplements on chemotherapy. There was no evidence that antioxidants reduced treatment response rates, although the authors warn that none of the studies were really large enough to address this properly.

‘Despite some intriguing studies that have suggested the benefit of adjunctive antioxidant treatments in cancer patients, the totality of the available evidence is equivocal at best and leaves us with serious concerns about the potential for harm,’ Lawenda’s team concludes.”

[Quoted Source: Antioxidants may undermine cancer therapy, Reuters Health News Release, May 27, 2008 (summarizing the commentary entitled, Should Supplemental Antioxidant Administration Be Avoided During Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy?; Lawenda, B.D. et. al., Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2008 100(11):773-783.))