Trinity College researchers believe they have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer.

The Dublin college scientists have discovered that blocking a particular stress response can reduce the spread of breast cancer.

The research was based on a study of women with breast cancer in Ireland between 2000 and 2007 with the results just published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers discovered that those taking drugs that blocked a particular hormone related stress pathway had a much lower risk of dying from their cancer.

Dr Ian Barron, a Health Research Board postdoctoral fellow at TCD, led the research team.

“For patients with cancer, higher levels of stress are associated with more frequent disease recurrence, faster disease progression and higher rates of death from cancer,” Dr Barron told the Irish Examiner.

“Studies have suggested how stress hormones such as adrenaline and oradrenaline could play a role in this process, but this is the first study in humans to show blocking the stress response greatly reduces the risk of cancer spreading or metastasizing.”

The results of the research suggest that, when compared to control groups, women taking the stress hormone blocking drugs in the year prior to their cancer diagnosis were less likely to be diagnosed with invasive or metastatic breast cancer than women who were not taking it.

It also argues that women continuing to take the drugs after their diagnosis were considerably less likely to die from the disease in the five years following diagnosis.