VEGF May Explain Link Between Social Support, Cancer Prognosis
Laurie Barclay, MD
A study of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) reported in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer may help explain the biological basis for the link between social support and cancer prognosis. Presurgical levels of VEGF, a cytokine that stimulates tumor angiogenesis, were lower in patients with ovarian cancer who had higher levels of social well-being.
"Growing evidence has indicated that psychological factors, such as stress, depression, and social support, are able to modulate many of the immunologic activities relevant to patients with malignant disease," write Susan K. Lutgendorf, PhD, and colleagues from the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Of 24 women with ovarian carcinoma who were recruited at the presurgical clinic visit, those who reported higher levels of social well-being on the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy Quality of Life survey and the Profile of Mood States had lower levels of VEGF (P=.005).
Specific perceptions linked to lower VEGF levels were greater support from friends and neighbors (P=.005) and less distance from friends (P=.04). Although depression as a whole was not related to VEGF levels, feelings of helplessness (P=.03) or worthlessness (P=.08) predicted higher VEGF levels.
In light of study limitations including the cross-sectional nature of the data and use of a quality-of-life instrument measuring only limited aspects of social support, the authors recommend further research before drawing any causal inferences.
"These findings suggest a novel mechanism by which biobehavioral factors may be associated with the progression of ovarian carcinoma," they write. "Understanding the mechanisms of such interactions and the type and magnitude of their potential effects is an important goal of future research."
Annals of Behavioral Medicine
American Psychologist, 1/04
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