Could Feeling Happy Help Mesothelioma Patients Live Longer?

It’s hard to find anything to be upbeat when you’re facing a diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma. But a new study conducted by researcher’s from Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is suggesting that experiencing happiness and other positive emotions may actually generate a physical response in the body that slows the growth of cancerous tumors. Though the study has only been conducted on laboratory animals and involved artificially generating the release of the animals’ “feel good” hormones, the scientists are hopeful that similar responses will eventually be seen among cancer victims, including those diagnosed with the deadly asbestos-related disease.

Mesothelioma patients face challenges that are far greater than those facing other types of cancers. Their diagnosis generally comes when their disease is already far advanced, and the medical community has had extremely limited success in offering patients survival beyond the median of under twenty-four months. But every time a new discovery is made that will benefit cancer patients in general, it raises hopes that it will offer mesothelioma patients some benefit, and that is true of the study published in the recent issue of the scientists journal Nature Communications. In writing of their discoveries, the researchers confirm that previous work has focused on how negative emotions can effect the body’s ability to fight cancer. Their more recent work has focused on “the impact of positive mental attributes on cancer biology,” and specifically on  Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) which are known to suppress the immune response to certain threats in order to prevent the body from overreacting. An unfortunate side effect of this activity is the suppression of the body’s ability to fight tumors.

The researchers decided to investigate what would happen if the lab animals’ reward system was activated and their dopamine levels was increased. What they found was a reduction in the activity of the MDSCs, and a subsequent  50 percent reduction in the size of the animals’ tumors. Writing of their findings, the researchers said, “Given the central role of the reward system in positive emotions, these findings introduce a physiological mechanism whereby the patient’s psychological state can impact anti-tumor immunity and cancer progression.”

Though it is unlikely that this particular study will extend specifically to mesothelioma patients, there is hope that its research will have benefit to patients dealing with the asbestos-related disease. For information on other studies involving mesothelioma, or resources that are available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at at  1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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