In a study of mice with cancer tumors, Professor Matthew During of Ohio State University found that mice placed in environments with three times as many other mice as they were usually around, and with more space, hiding places and toys, actually had their tumors go into spontaneous remission.
After three weeks in the new environment, only one in 20 of the cancerous mice showed no improvement. In most of the mice, tumor mass shrank 77 percent, and the size 43 percent. Apparently the key to the improvement was the new complex social interaction. More physical exercise alone, had no impact.
He said of the findings, “We’re really showing that you can’t look at a disease like cancer in isolation. For too long, physicians and other have stuck to what they know – surgery, chemo, radiotherapy. Traditionally working on the area of lifestyle and the brain has been a soft area.” Still mice obviously are not humans, and to generalize the findings of one mouse study to humans is questionable. He says, however, the results could be relevant to humans and cancer recovery.
Last year, a similar research study involving mice was published. Suzanne D. Conzen, MD said of the study, “This interdisciplinary research illustrates that the social environment, and a social animal’s response to that environment, can indeed alter the level of gene expression in a wide variety of tissues, not only the brain.”
Another mouse study published this year found that group housed mice had more tumors than individually housed mice. So what are lay people, untrained in the specific details of medical research study design supposed to determine from these animal studies?
Many of the news reports on the Web seem to gloss over the difference between the relevance of a study involving animals and one involving humans. Animal studies often precede research of the same type with human subjects. Of course, it could turn out that the research insights are applicable to cancer in humans.
The common sense view is that a person undergoing any serious illness effects and treatment, would want consistent social interaction and some support, if only for the practical assistance. The social interaction undoubtedly would help maintain a more typical daily routine and offer the same kind of connection people maintain normally. Why aren’t there more studies involving humans and social interaction levels as it relates to cancer?
Image Credit: e3000