How housing temperature affects the response to chemotherapy, in a mouse model of cancer, is reported in a paper published online in Nature Communications. The study highlights the impact of stress on tumour growth and treatment and cautions that this should be considered when testing new cancer drugs on mice.
Mice with a form of pancreatic cancer housed at the above-average temperature of 30oC respond better to the anti-cancer drug cisplatin than mice housed at the standard room temperature of 22oC, Bonnie Hylander and colleagues report. The authors suggest that this is because lower temperatures are stressful to the mice and levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine are elevated in order to adapt to the stress by boosting metabolism and helping to maintain body temperature. This adaptive response also boosts tumour cell resistance to the effects of the drug. If the action of norepinephrine is blocked, using the beta-blocker propranolol, mice housed at lower temperatures benefit from the same enhanced response to cisplatin as the mice housed at higher temperatures.
This mechanism could help explain some of the discrepancies observed in preclinical mouse studies of cancer drugs as the animals may simply have been housed at different temperatures. It also hints that the response to chemotherapy may be more plastic than was previously thought.