Support  May Reduce Ca Growth Factor

A Little Help from Friends May Slow Cancer Progress

People who have more support from friends and neighbors may produce less of a growth factor that can foster cancer spread, according to a study of ovarian cancer patients.

While there is strong evidence that stress, social support and other behavioral factors can affect a person's immune system, there has been no research on whether such factors can affect a person's production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

VEGF helps new blood vessels to form around tumors, which allows tumors to grow and spread more easily. And higher levels of VEGF have been linked to worse survival among ovarian cancer patients.

To investigate whether there might be a link between VEGF levels, social support and depression, Dr. Susan K. Lutgendorf of the University of Iowa in Iowa City and colleagues studied 24 women with ovarian cancer and 5 women with non-cancerous pelvic masses.

The cancer patients had not yet had surgery for the condition.

The higher a patient's level of social well-being, the researchers found, the lower her VEGF level. More support from friends and neighbors, as well as less distance from friends, were both linked to lower levels of the growth factor, according to the report in the August 15th issue of Cancer.

While women who reported more feelings of helplessness or worthlessness had higher VEGF levels, depression in general was not related to VEGF levels, the investigators found.

[08/30/2002; Reuters Health]

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