A MONASH researcher is making inroads into discovering how doctors can stifle the spread of breast cancer through the bodies of people who suffer high levels of stress.
Caroline Le, 23, says there is a clear link between the effects of chronic stress on the immune system and cancer progression.
Her Monash University pharmaceutical science team is studying mice to try to "decipher the mechanics" about what's going on, and how to stop it.
"Stress is very difficult to measure, so I'm looking at ways to quantify stress and identify molecular markers in the body to help with this quantifying process," Ms Le said.
Findings so far raise the possibility of common drugs, called beta blockers, being used to prevent the spread of breast cancer. Beta blockers are normally used to treat hypertension, high blood pressure and chest pains.
Since starting her research in March 2011, Ms Le says her determination has been fuelled by the fact that the research takes a fresh look at one of the most common conditions of modern life.
"It's well-established that when you're stressed you get sick more easily, because your immune system is weakened.
"But you hear about stress, and people automatically think it's bad for you, but it's never really been quantified and there's never been any real evidence behind it.
"Then you hear about cancer, about how it affects a lot of people, but in terms of causes there's not a great deal that's been done on it. I guess that's why this work is interesting."
Ms Le hopes to finish her 100,000-word thesis by early 2013.