Social Isolation Activates Dormant Mammary Tumors, and Modifies Inflammatory and Mitochondrial Metabolic Pathways in the Rat Mammary Gland

Fabia de Oliveira Andrade, Lu Jin, Robert Clarke, Imani Wood, Mary Ann Dutton, Chezaray Anjorin, Grace Rubin, Audrey Gao, Surojeet Sengupta, Kevin FitzGerald, Leena Hilakivi-Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although multifactorial in origin, one of the most impactful consequences of social isolation is an increase in breast cancer mortality. How this happens is unknown, but many studies have shown that social isolation increases circulating inflammatory cytokines and impairs mitochondrial metabolism. Using a preclinical Sprague Dawley rat model of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, we investigated whether social isolation impairs the response to tamoxifen therapy and increases the risk of tumors emerging from dormancy, and thus their recurrence. We also studied which signaling pathways in the mammary glands may be affected by social isolation in tamoxifen treated rats, and whether an anti-inflammatory herbal mixture blocks the effects of social isolation. Social isolation increased the risk of dormant mammary tumor recurrence after tamoxifen therapy. The elevated recurrence risk was associated with changes in multiple signaling pathways including an upregulation of IL6/JAK/STAT3 signaling in the mammary glands and tumors and suppression of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) pathway. In addition, social isolation increased the expression of receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE), consistent with impaired insulin sensitivity and weight gain linked to social isolation. In socially isolated animals, the herbal product inhibited IL6/JAK/STAT3 signaling, upregulated OXPHOS signaling, suppressed the expression of RAGE ligands S100a8 and S100a9, and prevented the increase in recurrence of dormant mammary tumors. Increased breast cancer mortality among socially isolated survivors may be most effectively prevented by focusing on the period following the completion of hormone therapy using interventions that simultaneously target several different pathways including inflammatory and mitochondrial metabolism pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number961
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research project was funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare (MOHW), Republic of Korea (grant number:090-091-3000-3038-301-320-01), Comprehensive and Integrative Medicine R&D project provided by the Comprehensive and Integrative Medicine Institute (CIMI) to L. Hilakivi-Clarke and K. FitzGerald, U01-CA184902 to R. Clarke, Georgetown University Dean for Research Pilot grant to L. Hilakivi-Clarke and M.A. Dutton, and P30-CA51008 Cancer Center Support grant to Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • IL6/STAT3
  • Jaeumganghwa-tang
  • breast cancer recurrence
  • oxidative phosphorylation
  • rat
  • social isolation
  • tamoxifen

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


Dive into the research topics of 'Social Isolation Activates Dormant Mammary Tumors, and Modifies Inflammatory and Mitochondrial Metabolic Pathways in the Rat Mammary Gland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this