Does social interaction affect Cancer patients’ response to therapy? NIH (National Institutes of Health) researchers claim that biological sources may be unknown, but it can be associated with stress reactions.

According to latest findings conducted by researchers from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), belonging to the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, how well cancer patients coped after the treatment was affected by their social dealings with the other patients during Chemotherapy.

The discoveries were published online last July 12, 2017, in the journal Network Science. Furthermore, it says that Cancer patients were a little more inclined to survive for five years or more following Chemotherapy if they intermingled with other patients during the treatment who also survived for five years or more.

Jeff Lienert, a National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program fellow and lead author in NHGRI’s Social and Behavioural Research Branch, said that people model their behaviour based on what is going on around them.

Lienert set forth to see if the influence of social interaction extended up to Cancer patients that are under Chemotherapy. Also connected with this research work were Christopher Marcum, Ph.D., staff scientist from the Social and Behavioural Research Branch at NHGRI. Lienert’s adviser, Felix Reed-Tsochas, Ph.D., at Oxford’s CABDyN Complexity Centre at the Saïd Business School and Laura Koehly, Ph.D., chief of NHGRI’s Social and Behavioural Research Branch.

The researchers established their discoveries on electronic medical data starting from 2000 to 2009 from two big hospitals in National Health Service in the United Kingdom. They observed the complete time a patient has spent with the same patients that undergo Chemotherapy and their five-year survival rate. The five-year survival rate is the percentage of patients who live at least five years after the treatment is done. For instance, a 70% five-year survival rate means that an estimated 70 out of 100 individuals are still alive five years after the therapy.

Stress Response

These experts did not research why the difference happened, but theorise that it can be associated to stress response. Lienert said that when a person is stressed, stress hormones like adrenaline is released which causes a fight or flight reaction.

Lienert claimed that constructive social support throughout the trying moments of greatest stress is extremely critical. He also suggested that for people who have friends with Cancer, keeping them company and being there for them throughout Chemotherapy may help in minimising their stress levels.

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Source: National Institutes of Health