Scientists at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have come up with a surprising way of fighting tumors and in the process showed that our brains have a role in preventing the growth of cancers. The researchers, who reported their findings in journal Nature Communications, artificially stimulated the reward system of mice stricken with cancer. What the investigators showed is that over time, the mice that received stimulation had significantly smaller tumors than control mice that were not administered the therapy.
The team believes that their stimulation affected the nervous system so much so that the immune system was also somehow modified as a result. This seems to be because the sympathetic nervous system, which can manipulate the immune system, was receiving a lot of signals when the reward part of the brain was artificially activated.
In addition to their findings related to cancer, the researchers also demonstrated that their technique resulted in an improved immune system memory, helping it to react more strongly when encountering bacteria previously identified as pathogenic.
“The relationship between a person’s emotional state and cancer has been demonstrated in the past, but mainly in relation to negative feelings such as stress and depression and without a physiological map of the action mechanism,” said Asya Rolls, a professor that was one of the leaders of the project. “Several researchers, for example, Prof. David Spiegel of the Stanford University School of Medicine showed that an improvement in the patient’s emotional state may affect the course of the disease, but it was not clear how this happened. We are now presenting a physiological model that can explain at least part of this effect.”
Image: Image of the reward system (VTA). Experimental mice were injected with a special compound known as a DREADD, that allows researchers to manipulate the brain and activate the reward system. The red is the DREADD expression limited to the reward system.
Study in Nature Communications: Modulation of anti-tumor immunity by the brain’s reward system…