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Immunological Similarities between Cancer and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Common Link to Fatigue

 

 


Anticancer Res. 2009 Nov;29(11):4717-26.


Immunological Similarities between Cancer and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Common Link to Fatigue?

Meeus M, Mistiaen W, Lambrecht L, Nijs J. Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen (AHA), Department of Health Sciences, Division of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy, Van Aertselaerstraat 31, 2170 Merksem, Belgium. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



Cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) are both characterised by fatigue and severe disability. Besides fatigue, certain aspects of immune dysfunctions appear to be present in both illnesses. In this regard, a literature review of overlapping immune dysfunctions in CFS and cancer is provided. Special emphasis is given to the relationship between immune dysfunctions and fatigue. Abnormalities in ribonuclease (RNase) L and hyperactivation of nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-kappaB) are present in CFS and in prostate cancer. Malfunctioning of natural killer (NK) cells has long been recognised as an important factor in the development and reoccurrence of cancer, and has been documented repeatedly in CFS patients. The dysregulation of the RNase L pathway, hyperactive NF-kappaB leading to disturbed apoptotic mechanisms and oxidative stress or excessive nitric oxide, and low NK activity may play a role in the two diseases and in the physiopathology of the common symptom fatigue. However, in cancer the relation between the immune dysfunctions and fatigue has been poorly studied. Immunological abnormalities to such as a dysregulated RNase L pathway, hyperactive NF-kappaB, increased oxidative stress and reduced NK cytotoxicity, among others, are present in both diseases. These anomalies may be part of the physiopathology of some of the common complaints, such as fatigue. Further studies to confirm the hypotheses given here are warranted.


PMID: 20032425 [PubMed - in process]

 


 

 

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  • This study is important for a number of reasons for chronic fatigue syndrome ME/CFS patients. First it provides an overview of the specific dysfunctions within the immune system that are now well established in our understanding of the illness. Secondly in comparing the immune dysfunction to very similar problems seen in cancer patients it helps to elevate ME/CFS in what can only be described as "the hierarchy of diseases". With the recent discovery that ME/CFS may be caused by a retrovirus (XMRV), just as HIV/AIDS is, people, governments and medical authorities may finally begin to give the disease and its victims deserved respect (and research dollars!). Incidentally similarities between the immune dysfunction in HIV and ME/CFS were identified and fairly widely known two decades ago but ignored by influential organisations such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Let us hope the same is not true in the case of this cancer link - epidemiological studies have shown increased incidence of cancer in ME/CFS patients.

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