The treatment of most cancers can still be considered inadequate despite the steady progress being made. A prime example of this issue is with epithelial ovarian cancers; this disease presents a significant issue, with a 5-year survival rate of 46% and a survival rate of 28% in patients that develop metastatic disease. Since ovarian cancer has such a high mortality rate, effective treatment modalities are necessary to prolong the quality of life after diagnosis. Psychosocial stress is related to the progression, proliferation, and migration in cancer patients, but the mechanisms of this relationship are not fully understood. The present in vitro study investigated the ability of oxytocin, a neuropeptide associated with social support, to attenuate the stress response. Catecholamines, a subclass of stress hormones, were used to simulate the stress induced inflammation process in ovarian cancer cells. To evaluate oxytocin’s capacity to attenuate the stress response, the ovarian cancer cell lines SKOV3, HEYA8, OVCAR8, and OV432 were separately treated with the presence or absence of catecholamines with the addition of oxytocin. Protein expression of the oxytocin receptor was investigated using a western blot protocol. Oxytocin receptor, oxytocin, and IL-6 mRNA expression was evaluated by quantitative PCR. Treatment with Oxytocin attenuated the inflammatory response resulting from catecholamine treatment. The oxytocin receptor gene and protein were present in each cell line, suggesting that oxytocin has an anti-inflammatory role in the tumor microenvironment in ovarian cancer patients. These results provide a mechanism by which social support, working through the release of oxytocin, promotes an anti-inflammatory process in ovarian cancer patients. This study may shed light into new pharmacological approaches for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Samsam, Mohtashem


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Interdisciplinary Studies


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

3 years

Release Date