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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“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.

NCCN Updates Infection Guidelines To Include Information About H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu)

NCCN [National Comprehensive Cancer Network] recently updated the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™ for the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer-Related Infections to include information about the H1N1 virus, also known as “swine flu”. The NCCN Guidelines provide specific recommendations on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the major common and opportunistic infections that afflict patients with cancer.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network logoInfectious diseases are important causes of morbidity and mortality in patients with cancer. In certain cases, the malignancy itself can predispose patients to severe or recurrent infections. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recognizes the importance of providing the latest information on treating these infections and has developed the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™ for the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer-Related Infections. The NCCN Guidelines were recently updated to include information about the effect that the H1N1 virus, or “swine flu,” may have on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer treatment-related infections.

The NCCN Guidelines on Prevention and Treatment of Cancer-Related Infections characterize the major categories of immunologic deficits in persons with cancer and the major pathogens to which they are susceptible. Specific recommendations are provided on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the major common and opportunistic infections that afflict patients with cancer.

The H1N1 reference is located in the section of the NCCN Guidelines that lists recommendations for treating lung infiltrates in febrile neutropenic patients. The updated NCCN

This image of the newly identified H1N1 influenza virus ("Swine Flu") was taken in the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Influenza Laboratory.

This image of the newly identified H1N1 influenza virus ("Swine Flu") was taken in the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Influenza Laboratory.

Guidelines note that certain tests and antiviral treatments that are effective in more common strains of influenza and viruses may not be applicable to the H1N1 strain as well as other seasonal or pandemic strains.

Additional noteworthy updates to the NCCN Guidelines include the addition of doripenem (Doribax®, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) to the Antibacterial Agents Tables and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Viread®, Gilead Sciences, Inc.) to the Antiviral Agents Tables.

NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™ are developed and updated through an evidence-based process with explicit review of the scientific evidence integrated with expert judgment by multidisciplinary panels of physicians from NCCN Member Institutions. The most recent version of this and all the NCCN Guidelines are available free of charge at NCCN.org.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a not-for-profit alliance of 21 of the world’s leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives. For more information, visit NCCN.org.

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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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Libby’s H*O*P*E*(tm) Adds New Cancer Video Archive Courtesy of Vodpod.com

Yesterday, Libby’s H*O*P*E* added a new cancer video archive to the weblog courtesy of Vodpod.com.  Currently, the archive contains approximately 90 videos that address many general cancer and ovarian cancer issues, as well as the personal voices of those affected by cancer. The new video archive is located on the homepage right sidebar.  All you have to do is “click and play.”

vodpod-logoYesterday, Libby’s H*O*P*E* added a new cancer video archive to the weblog courtesy of Vodpod.com.  Currently, the archive contains approximately 90 videos that address many general cancer and ovarian cancer issues, as well as the personal voices of those affected by cancer. The new video archive is located on the homepage right sidebar.  All you have to do is “click and play.”  The video arrangement is set to “random order” so that new videos appear on the homepage sidebar each time you visit Libby’s H*O*P*E*.

If you are aware of a general cancer/ovarian cancer video that is educational, heartfelt, inspirational, humorous, poignant, or is simply dedicated to the one you love, please provide us with the URL address of the video.  The URL video address can be sent to us by email (click on the “contact” button located at the top of the homepage), or by comment (post a comment under this post).  Upon receipt of the video URL address, we will add the referenced video to the new archive.  We appreciate your participation in adding to our video archive and hope you find the archive helpful.

Survivorship A to Z: Practical Comprehensive Information For Living Successfully After a Cancer Diagnosis

On June 9, 2008, Survivorship A to Z, a new on-line resource for cancer survivors, was officially launched. The mission of Survivorship A to Z is to provide the practical information that you need to thrive in the “new normal” that exists after a life-changing cancer diagnosis. This on-line resource was founded by David S. Landay, who a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law School.

Survivorship A to Z is a nonprofit corporation that provides comprehensive resources for cancer survivors including those listed below.

  • Get the practical information you need for all parts of your life impacted by your diagnosis in whatever depth you want – including downloadable forms.
  • Personalize information to your disease, stage, social and economic situation with a free, one-of-a-kind Individual Action Plan. Your plan is computer-generated. It changes as your health, economic or personal situation changes.
  • Start your own personal Symptoms Diary to keep track of your symptoms. With a touch of a button, you receive an instantly readable graph to show your doctor.
  • Use interactive charts to help maximize your financial situation. Health expenses account for over 50% of bankruptcies – including people with insurance.
  • Share information or concerns on the community Message Boards. Message boards are an invaluable source of shared information and support. Message boards are divided by categories such as Insurance, Finances and Employment (with separate boards for business owners, self-employed people and employees).

If you would like to watch the Good Morning America segment highlighting Survivorship A to Z that aired on June 11, 2008, click here. If you want review a list of topics covered by Survivorship A to Z, click here.