Understanding the Pathophysiology of Psychological Distress and Pancreatic Cancer: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Background

Psychological distress is highly prevalent in patients with pancreatic cancer (PC), yet little is known about the pathophysiology underlying the relationship between these 2 diseases. Our aim was to systematically review the evidence examining the pathophysiological mechanisms of the association between PC and psychological distress.

Methods

A systematic review of the literature was conducted using MEDLINE, Embase, PsychINFO, and CINAHL databases and reported according to the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses guidelines. Studies examining the pathophysiological mechanisms between PC and psychological distress were included for analysis.

Results

Eight studies were identified that fulfilled inclusion criteria. Four mechanisms were identified accounting for the possible relationship between psychological distress and PC, including (1) stress-induced β-adrenergic signaling, (2) interleukin-6–mediated effects, (3) kynurenine pathway upregulation, and (4) altered cerebral glucose metabolism.

Conclusions

The relationship between psychological distress and PC is complex, and our understanding of these mechanisms may have implications for holistic clinical management and oncological outcome. The evidence exploring the pathophysiology of this interaction is sparse, but most well established with regard to the stress-induced β-adrenergic signaling mechanism. Further studies in larger cohorts are required to elucidate the relationship between PC and psychological distress to be able to identify therapeutic targets for both conditions.

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