Stress and drug resistance in cancer

Renee Flaherty, Marta Falcinelli, Melanie Flint

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients diagnosed with cancer often undergo considerable psychological distress, and the induction of the psychological stress response has been linked with a poor response to chemotherapy. The psychological stress response is mediated by fluctuations of the hormones glucocorticoids (GC’s) and catecholamines. Binding to their respective receptors, GC’s and the catecholamines adrenaline/noradrenaline are responsible for signalling a wide range of processes involved in cell survival, cell cycle and immune function. Synthetic GC’s are also often prescribed as co-medication alongside chemotherapy, and increasing evidence suggests that GC’s may induce chemoresistance in multiple cancer types. In this review, we bring together evidence linking psychological stress hormone signalling with resistance to chemo- and immune therapies, as well as mechanistic evidence regarding the effects of exogenous stress hormones on the efficacy of chemotherapies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCancer Drug resistance
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2019. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, for any purpose, even commercially, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.


  • Cancer
  • Drug resistance


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