Type of anesthesia for cancer resection surgery: No differential impact on cancer recurrence in mouse models of breast cancer

Julia Dubowitz, Alexandra I. Ziegler, Richard Beare, Fabian Jost-Brinkman, Adam K. Walker, Ryan D. Gillis, Aeson Chang, Ni Chun Chung, Olga A. Martin, Frédéric Hollande, Bernhard Riedel, Erica K. Sloan

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Background Surgery is essential for curative treatment of solid tumors. Evidence from recent retrospective clinical analyses suggests that use of propofol-based total intravenous anesthesia during cancer resection surgery is associated with improved overall survival compared to inhaled volatile anesthesia. Evaluating these findings in prospective clinical studies is required to inform definitive clinical guidelines but will take many years and requires biomarkers to monitor treatment effect. Therefore, we examined the effect of different anesthetic agents on cancer recurrence in mouse models of breast cancer with the overarching goal of evaluating plausible mechanisms that could be used as biomarkers of treatment response. 

Methods To test the hypothesis that volatile anesthesia accelerates breast cancer recurrence after surgical resection of the primary tumor, we used three mouse models of breast cancer. We compared volatile sevoflurane anesthesia with intravenous propofol anesthesia and used serial non-invasive bioluminescent imaging to track primary tumor recurrence and metastatic recurrence. To determine short-term perioperative effects, we evaluated the effect of anesthesia on vascular integrity and immune cell changes after surgery in animal models. 

Results Survival analyses found that the kinetics of cancer recurrence and impact on survival were similar regardless of the anesthetic agent used during cancer surgery. Vascular permeability, immune cell infiltration and cytokine profiles showed no statistical difference after resection with inhaled sevoflurane or intravenous propofol anesthesia. 

Conclusions These preclinical studies found no evidence that choice of anesthetic agent used during cancer resection surgery affected either short-term perioperative events or long-term cancer outcomes in mouse models of breast cancer. These findings raise the possibility that mouse models do not recapitulate perioperative events in cancer patients. Nonetheless, the findings suggest that future evaluation of effects of anesthesia on cancer outcomes should focus on cancer types other than breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0293905
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11 November
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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