Psychosocial stress and inflammation in cancer

Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Mar;30 Suppl:S41-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.06.015. Epub 2012 Jul 9.


Stress-induced immune dysregulation results in significant health consequences for immune related disorders including viral infections, chronic autoimmune disease, and tumor growth and metastasis. In this mini-review we discuss the sympathetic, neuroendocrine and immunologic mechanisms by which psychosocial stress can impact cancer biology. Both human and animal studies have shown the sympathetic and neuroendocrine responses to psychosocial stress significantly impacts cancer, in part, through regulation of inflammatory mediators. Psychosocial stressors stimulate neuroendocrine, sympathetic, and immune responses that result in the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis, sympathetic nervous system (SNS), and the subsequent regulation of inflammatory responses by immune cells. Social disruption (SDR) stress, a murine model of psychosocial stress and repeated social defeat, provides a novel and powerful tool to probe the mechanisms leading to stress-induced alterations in inflammation, tumor growth, progression, and metastasis. In this review, we will focus on SDR as an important model of psychosocial stress in understanding neural-immune mechanisms in cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / immunology
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Immune System / immunology
  • Immune System / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / immunology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*


  • Cytokines
  • Glucocorticoids