doctor examining cancer patient doctor examining cancer patient The weeks before and after surgery are vulnerable times for cancer patients. A new study changes the approach to those time periods. (Photo: JPC-PROD/Shutterstock)

The best way to keep cancer from coming back? Anti-stress drugs, new study says

Researchers say the key to prolonging life after cancer, and preventing recurrence, is to control stress and inflammation.

The traditional approach to cancer treatment recommends no chemo, radiation or immune therapy for at least three weeks before or after surgery. It follows the belief that too much intervention during this delicate time can throw off the body's immune system and, in turn, make way for new cancer cells to form.

One group of researchers at Tel Aviv University wasn't totally convinced that this was the right approach. So they did something that's pretty risky in the science world: they went against convention.

And in doing that, they discovered something that might change the course of cancer treatment in a very big way: Those three weeks before and after surgery could actually be the perfect time to intervene. Specifically, with a regimen of anti-stress and anti-inflammation drugs.

piles of pillsA pairing of anti-anxiety and anti-inflammation drugs is a promising cocktail for preventing cancer recurrence. (Photo: Nenov Brothers Images/Shutterstock)

That approach, the researchers said, is much more effective in keeping cancer from returning than previous methods.

"We found that the drugs were very efficient in reducing biomarkers of metastatic processes," said Professor Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu of TAU's School of Psychological Sciences and Sagol School of Neuroscience, who led the study. "For example, we found that the drug treatment reverses EMT – the process that tumor cells go through to slip out of the primary tumor and enter another organ. It is a crucially important step in the metastatic process."

To conduct the research, Ben-Eliyahu and his team put 38 breast cancer patients at three hospitals in Israel on a regimen of Deralin (used to reduce blood pressure and anxiety) and Etopan (used to reduce inflammation) five days before their surgeries, the day of their surgeries and five days after their surgeries. They then analyzed blood and tissue samples of the patients to determine cell health.

drug resistant bacteriaMost cancer-related deaths are the result of post-surgical metastatic recurrence. (Photo: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock)

"We've taken an unconventional approach, deviating from the current medical dogma that refrains from intervening during the short period surrounding a cancer surgery ..." Ben-Eliyahu said. "Even within the medical establishment, we encountered some levels of disbelief and antagonism. But after conducting ample studies in animal models of cancer, and reviewing the medical literature, we came to the firm conclusion that maybe this is the most important period in the prevention of cancer recurrence."

To expand on their findings, the team also conducted a study on colorectal cancer patients and came up with similar results. Now, they're considering a larger-scale clinical trial to establish the long-term benefits of this treatment, with the hope that it "becomes available for most cancer patients," Ben-Eliyahu said.

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