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Preventing artery stiffness and the danger of depression after cancer

Preventing artery stiffness and the danger of depression after cancer
Amsterdam, May 17th 2013-

Also this week MedZine brings you the latest medical news on various medical specialisms. In this editorial two striking studies are highlighted. The first describes the role of the Dkk1 protein in hardening of arteries. The second study shows that cancer survivors with a depression have more chance to die prematurely than cancer survivors without depression.

Preventing the hardening of arteries

Atherosclerosis is a disease where the flow of oxygen-rich blood is squeezed of as a result of the formation of plaques and excessive connective tissue inside vessel walls. A hallmark of atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries. In a publication in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, Cheng and colleagues identify Dkk1 as a key regulator in the stiffening of arteries. Under normal circumstances the Dkk1 protein is important for development and wound healing. Inflammatory responses triggered inside artery walls after the onset of hyperglycemia, and other metabolic injuries associated with diseases like diabetes, can trigger prolonged and destructive Dkk1 signaling. The researchers find that Dkk1 is a promising target to limit atherosclerotic disease. However, they also stress that because Dkk1 has important functions under normal tissues, the therapy should be targeted to the inner lining of the arteries, the endothelium. Dwight Towler, the senior author of the paper, hopes to develop a therapeutic drug that would include a Dkk1 inhibitor and a homing peptide. This homing peptide would ensure that the drug would specifically be delivered to the endothelium.

Depression in cancer survivors

In a study published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, Mols and colleagues show that cancer survivors who suffer from a depression have an increased risk of dying prematurely. The prevalence of cancer is rising. Also more individuals are cured from cancer of live with cancer as a chronic disease. Many of these survivors face continuing problems due to cancer and its treatment, including a high prevalence of depression. The researchers examined whether depressive symptoms observed between one and ten years after cancer diagnosis were linked to an increased risk of premature death two to three years later. A total of 3,080 survivors of endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma or multiple myeloma completed questionnaires to identify symptoms of depression. The results show that depressed cancer survivors are twice as likely to die prematurely than those who do not suffer from depression, irrespective of the cancer site. The next step is to understand why this is the case. These results indicate that paying attention to the recognition and treatment of depressions in cancer survivors is essential.

Source: Eurekalert, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology and Journal of Cancer Survivorship

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