Exercise, psychosocial stress, and drugs such as adrenergic agonists and antagonists increase the concentrations of catecholamines and/or alter adrenergic signaling. Intriguingly, exercise studies universally suggest that catecholamines are cancer-inhibiting whereas cancer stress studies typically report the opposite, whereas β-blocker studies show variable effects. Here, we term variable effects of catecholamines in cancer the cancer catecholamine conundrum. Variable effects of catecholamines can potentially be explained by variable expression of nine adrenergic receptor isoforms and by other factors including catecholamine effects on cancer versus immune or endothelial cells. Future studies on catecholamines and cancer should seek to understand the mechanisms that explain variable effects of catecholamines in cancer to utilize beneficial or block detrimental effects of catecholamines in cancer patients.
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