Chronic stress enhances progression of acute lymphoblastic leukemia via beta-adrenergic signaling

Donald M Lamkin, Erica Kate Sloan, Ami J Patel, Beverley S Chiang, Matthew A Pimentel, Jeffrey C Y Ma, Jesusa MG Arevalo, Kouki Morizono, Steven W Cole

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Clinical studies suggest that stress-related biobehavioral factors can accelerate the progression of hematopoietic cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), but it is unclear whether such effects are causal or what biological pathways mediate such effects. Given the network of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) fibers that innervates the bone marrow to regulate normal (non-leukemic) hematopoietic progenitor cells, we tested the possibility that stress-induced SNS signaling might also affect ALL progression. In an orthotopic mouse model, Nalm-6 human pre-B ALL cells were transduced with the luciferase gene for longitudinal bioluminescent imaging and injected iv. into male SCID mice for bone marrow engraftment. Two weeks of daily restraint stress significantly enhanced ALL tumor burden and dissemination in comparison to controls, and this effect was blocked by the beta-adrenergic antagonist, propranolol. Although Nalm-6 ALL cells expressed mRNA for beta 1- and beta 3-adrenergic receptors, they showed no evidence of cAMP signaling in response to norepinephrine, and norepinephrine failed to enhance Nalm-6 proliferation in vitro. These results show that chronic stress can accelerate the progression of human pre-B ALL tumor load via a beta-adrenergic signaling pathway that likely involves indirect regulation of ALL biology via alterations in the function of other host cell types such as immune cells or the bone marrow microenvironment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635 - 641
Number of pages7
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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