Adrenergic Signaling in Immunotherapy of Cancer: Friend or Foe?

15 Citations (Scopus)


The incidence of cancer is increasing worldwide, which is to a large extent related to the population's increasing lifespan. However, lifestyle changes in the Western world are causative as well. Exercise is intrinsically associated with what one could call a "healthy life", and physical activity is associated with a lower risk of various types of cancer. Mouse models of exercise have shown therapeutic efficacy across numerous cancer models, at least in part due to the secretion of adrenaline, which mobilizes cells of the immune system, i.e., cytotoxic T and natural killer (NK) cells, through signaling of the β-2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR). Clinical trials aiming to investigate the clinical value of exercise are ongoing. Strikingly, however, the use of β-blockers-antagonists of the very same signaling pathway-also shows signs of clinical potential in cancer therapy. Cancer cells also express β-adrenergic receptors (βARs) and signaling of the receptor is oncogenic. Moreover, there are data to suggest that β2AR signaling in T cells renders the cell functionally suppressed. In this paper, we discuss these seemingly opposing mechanisms of cancer therapy-exercise, which leads to increased β2AR signaling, and β-blocker treatment, which antagonizes that same signaling-and suggest potential mechanisms and possibilities for their combination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number394
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Adrenergic receptor
  • Cancer
  • Exercise
  • NK cell
  • Physical activity
  • T cell
  • β2AR
  • β‐2 adrenergic receptor
  • β‐blocker


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