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Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer-Induced Sleep Disruption

Department of Neuroscience, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20(11), 2780;
Received: 1 May 2019 / Revised: 3 June 2019 / Accepted: 4 June 2019 / Published: 6 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Annual Reviews in Molecular Sciences 2019)
PDF [1082 KB, uploaded 6 June 2019]


Sleep is essential for health. Indeed, poor sleep is consistently linked to the development of systemic disease, including depression, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive impairments. Further evidence has accumulated suggesting the role of sleep in cancer initiation and progression (primarily breast cancer). Indeed, patients with cancer and cancer survivors frequently experience poor sleep, manifesting as insomnia, circadian misalignment, hypersomnia, somnolence syndrome, hot flushes, and nightmares. These problems are associated with a reduction in the patients’ quality of life and increased mortality. Due to the heterogeneity among cancers, treatment regimens, patient populations and lifestyle factors, the etiology of cancer-induced sleep disruption is largely unknown. Here, we discuss recent advances in understanding the pathways linking cancer and the brain and how this leads to altered sleep patterns. We describe a conceptual framework where tumors disrupt normal homeostatic processes, resulting in aberrant changes in physiology and behavior that are detrimental to health. Finally, we discuss how this knowledge can be leveraged to develop novel therapeutic approaches for cancer-associated sleep disruption, with special emphasis on host-tumor interactions. View Full-Text
Keywords: breast cancer; sleep; IL-6; hypocretin/orexin; leptin; EEG; autonomic nervous system breast cancer; sleep; IL-6; hypocretin/orexin; leptin; EEG; autonomic nervous system

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Walker, W.H., II; Borniger, J.C. Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer-Induced Sleep Disruption. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 2780.

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