Research shows that stress suppresses response to cancer treatments

on 16 December 2017
When life has too much stress

The power of hypnotherapy to reduce chronic and unnecessary stress is almost universally accepted, sadly though, it is not so universally known or adopted as a treatment protocol, which really is a shame for cancer patients! I often wonder why that is . . . 

Resolving stress through the back door!

The power of hypnotherapy to reduce chronic, unnecessary, stress is almost universally accepted, sadly though, it is not so universally known! That sounds like an oxymoron if ever I heard one . . . . . . . . ?

When I say universally accepted I am, just generalising and speaking in terms of geography, not demography, meaning that hypnotherapy is something that is practised in almost all first world countries and definitely in many third world countries too. Although while it is practised in almost every country, it is not so widely available, affordable or without its sceptics.

For the purpose of this article, when I say hypnosis, I’m talking in terms of brainwave activity, and the same naturally occurring phenomena (trance) can also be achieved under a different name. What? That's right, you see, hypnosis is merely the name given to this natural phenomenon we call trance and many people have been practising trance-like rituals and therapies for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Trance states occur naturally and subconsciously, like an automatic process that lowers brainwave activity but they can also be consciously accessed, e.g. by meditation, listening to soft relaxing music and of course, sleep/power naps. That sleep reduces brainwave activity is no big news item, however, if you think about it, sleep is one of the primary ways the body heals and rejuvenates itself. So, it would seem obvious that by engaging in activities that slow our brainwaves, this has to be good for us, agree?

Hypnotherapy differs from the other methods above by virtue of its being a therapeutic intent within the intervention. It is this hypnotically induced intervention that assists the client to become more non-consciously open to stress reduction (by actually increasing relaxation), this occurs both consciously as well as subconsciously.

However, leaving conscious/subconscious processes to one side for a moment, there's a lot more to it than that and the autonomic nervous system plays a large role in the area of mind/body healing and wellness. This is because there is a direct link between the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the stress system (fight or flight). Similarly, there is a direct link to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and the relaxation response. The former acts as the accelerator and the latter as the brakes. Logically, if you were driving a car and the car in front braked, you'd hit the brakes too and you wouldn't take your foot off until the imminent danger had passed. As soon as the danger passes, you take your foot off the brake and you can then begin to relax. This a how the stress system works, it engages the SNS when it perceives you are in danger and it switches it off when you are not (by invoking the PNS).

But like all things automatic, things can go wrong and when we are chronically stressed, we have a higher level of ambient stress on a daily basis. When this happens we can become hyper-aroused, we actually begin (subconsciously) to look for danger and often danger that isn't really there. When we are stressed the body goes into a hyper protection mode, many systems ramp up, e.g. heart rate increases, to pump oxygen, insulin, cortisol, adrenaline and many other chemicals around the body. Some blood is withdrawn from the skin to the major muscle groups, this is needed in arms for fighting and legs for running (fight or flight) but it also reduces blood loss in the event of a cut or wound. It also explains why we can have a pale complexion or tingling sensations like pins and needles etc. There is also some alteration to blood flow in the brain, this affects areas like the hippocampus (the memory centre) and the prefrontal cortex (executive function, decisions, judgement etc.).

However, relative to this article, chronic stress also dampens down the digestive system. This is important because approximately 80% of our immune system resides in our gastrointestinal tract, which means chronic stress is a major player in reducing immune function and when we are ill, this is the last thing we need. It’s also the last thing we need when we are well too because our immune system is our first line of defence! In addition to the above, when we are unwell we often lose our appetite, so not only are we facing an impairment of immune function (wellness protection), we are also facing the loss of nutrition which is so vital for wellness because the body doesn’t get the vitamins and minerals that are needed for a healthy life.

I hope this makes it easier to understand why a reduction in chronic stress or anxiety can help cancer patients fight the disease? Acting as a quasi-personal assistant, hypnotherapy is an excellent tool to help you in stress management/reduction! I hope it is also obvious how reducing stress can help you to pre-emptively maintain wellness and put you in a better position to ward off illness and disease in the first place?

Whilst reducing stress can aid general health and wellness, prevention is always better than cure and by effectively managing your stress levels to start with, you actually may not unwittingly expose yourself to an illness or disease that you otherwise may not develop. However, it is worth a mention that chronic stress is generally not believed to be a major cause of illness or disease, it’s just that the presence of it, by virtue of a depleted immune function, can definitely increase the odds of it occurring.

On the upside, being generally calm and relaxed can help to increase the odds of achieving wellness and it may also help your body's systems to prevent major illnesses occurring in the first place! And as odd as it might sound, stress is actually your friend because, in the event of any malaise, normal stress helps your system marshal its defences to fight off illness and disease, it's just too much of it that is bad!

To find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you manage unnecessary stress, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation, here: - 
or call +65 9186 3575 today?

The research:
New research shows that chronic stress suppresses the immune system's response to cancer, reducing the effectiveness of immunotherapy treatments. University of Queensland scientists say they are investigating dual therapies for patients to reduce stress signalling and improve their response to treatments.

UQ Diamantina Institute researcher Dr Stephen Mattarollo said lymphoma progressed more rapidly in mouse models when stress pathways were induced to reflect chronic psychological stress. "When we used immunotherapies on these mice they were not able to respond as effectively as those which had not been stressed," Dr Mattarollo said.

"This is because the stress led to poor function against cancer by T-cells, which are very important in the immune system's control and surveillance of tumours and are a major target in many immunotherapy treatments."

Dr Mattarollo said increased anxiety was natural with a cancer diagnosis, and it should be managed to ensure the best possible outcome for patients. "Absolutely there is now pre-clinical evidence to suggest that treatments and lifestyle interventions to manage or reduce stress levels will improve the chances of these patients responding to therapies," he said. "This applies particularly to immunotherapies, but many conventional therapies such as chemotherapy also rely on components of the immune system for their effectiveness. "It is quite possible that by increasing the immune function in patients they will also respond better to some other therapies." PhD candidate Michael Nissen said as immunotherapies became more widely available, it was important to build on the knowledge of factors that influence their effectiveness. "The more we know, the better chance we have of designing them effectively and efficiently to work in cancer patients," Mr Nissen said.

Dr Mattarollo said the lab was hoping to combine immunotherapy treatments with commonly used blood pressure drugs that block the effects of stress hormones.

"We hope this will reduce the stress-induced neural signalling and improve immune function," Dr Mattarollo said.

"We are about to test this combination in animal models." Dr Mattarollo said psychoneuroimmunology -- or the interaction between the mind, the nervous system and the immune system -- is a rapidly growing discipline and is becoming an increasing focus of the lab's cancer research.

The research is published in Cancer Immunology Research.

Dr Mattarollo's lab is located at the Translational Research Institute.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the University of Queensland. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

Michael D Nissen, Erica K. Sloan, Stephen R Mattarollo. Beta-adrenergic signalling impairs anti-tumour CD8 T cell responses to B cell lymphoma immunotherapy. Cancer Immunology Research, 2017; canimm.0401.2017 DOI: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-17-0401