Social isolation is associated with elevated tumor norepinephrine in ovarian carcinoma patients

Susan K. Lutgendorf, Koen DeGeest, Laila Dahmoush, Donna Farley, Frank Penedo, David Bender, Michael Goodheart, Thomas E. Buekers, Luis Mendez, Gina Krueger, Lauren Clevenger, David M. Lubaroff, Anil K. Sood, Steve W. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Noradrenergic pathways have been implicated in growth and progression of ovarian cancer. Intratumoral norepinephrine (NE) has been shown to increase with stress in an animal cancer model, but little is known regarding how tumor NE varies with disease stage and with biobehavioral factors in ovarian cancer patients. This study examined relationships between pre-surgical measures of social support, depressed mood, perceived stress, anxiety, tumor histology and tumor catecholamine (NE and epinephrine [E]) levels among 68 ovarian cancer patients. We also examined whether associations observed between biobehavioral measures and tumor catecholamines extended to other compartments. Higher NE levels were found in advanced stage (p= 0.006) and higher grade (p= 0.001) tumors. Adjusting for stage, grade, and peri-surgical beta blockers, patients with a perceived lack of social support had significantly higher tumor NE (β= -0.29, p= 0.012). A similar trend was seen for social support and ascites NE (adjusting for stage, peri-surgical beta blockers and caffeine: β= -0.50, p= 0.075), but not for plasma NE. Other biobehavioral factors were not related to tumor, ascites, or plasma NE (p values >0.21). Tumor E was undetectable in the majority of tumors and thus E was not further analyzed. In summary, these results suggest that tumor NE provides distinct information from circulating plasma concentrations. Tumor NE levels were elevated in relationship to tumor grade and stage. Low subjective social support was associated with elevated intratumoral NE. As beta-adrenergic signaling is related to key biological pathways involved in tumor growth, these findings may have implications for patient outcomes in ovarian cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-255
Number of pages6
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Beta-adrenergic signaling
  • Catecholamines
  • Norepinephrine
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Social isolation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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