Neuroblastoma Risk May Be Increased by Stress During Pregnancy Interview with:
Joanna Kitlinska, PhD
Assistant Professor
Georgetown University Medical Center
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology
Washington, DC 20057

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Kitlinska: Neuroblastoma is a pediatric tumor which arises due to defects in normal fetal neuronal development. Although the disease is associated with genetic changes, there are also clinical and experimental data implicating non-genetic factors in its etiology. We hypothesized that maternal stress during pregnancy can be one such factor, as it leads to fetal hypoxia and elevated cortisol levels – the two factors known to alter normal neuronal development and increase aggressiveness of neuroblastoma. Indeed, using an animal model of neuroblastoma, we have found that offspring of mothers which have been subjected to stress during pregnancy develop tumors twice as frequently as those from intact pregnancies. Moreover, tumors developing in prenatally-stressed mice were spreading more often to distant organs.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Kitlinska: If the stimulatory effect of prenatal stress on neuroblastoma development is confirmed by further studies, this new paradigm will enhance our understanding of etiology of these childhood tumors. This, in turn, can result in designing novel therapies and the first-ever preventative approaches for neuroblastoma. The latter may include pharmacological treatments or non-invasive behavioral interventions that have been shown to decrease levels of stress hormones.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kitlinska: Further studies are required to confirm our findings using established stress models and identify pathways mediating effects of prenatal stress on neuroblastoma development. Moreover, epidemiological research is needed to validate our results in human population.


Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 2015 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia

Prenatal stress increases neuroblastoma tumorigenesis in TH-MYCN mice model. Sung-Hyeok Hong, David Christian, Emily Trinh, Susana Galli, Meredith Horton, Yichien Lee, Christopher Albanese, Olga Rodriguez, Jason U. Tilan, Joanna Kitlinska.

 [wysija_form id=”1″] Interview with: Joanna Kitlinska, PhD (2015). Neuroblastoma Risk May Be Increased by Stress During Pregnancy