Different Types of Anesthesia can Impact Breast Cancer Metastasis.

Priyanshi Patel ‘22

Close up of a doctor about to put an oxygen mask in operating room.
Figure 1. Choice of anesthesia can cause adverse outcomes after surgery.

Metastasis refers to the surgical removal of solid tumors and metastasis is the main cause of cancer death. Previously, not much was known about the role anesthetics play in cancer metastasis. Complete surgical removal of solid tumors offers the possibility of a cure and is the basic treatment provided. Despite surgery, recurrent metastasis in vital organs does reoccur and is a major cause of mortality. Researchers from Stony Brook University Cancer Center performed surgeries to remove primary tumors in mice using two different forms of anesthesia, sevoflurane and propofol. 

Many studies have suggested that sevoflurane is associated with worse outcomes of patients than propofol after cancer surgeries, but it has not been confirmed by other studies. It is also difficult to address the effects of cancer metastasis in clinical studies because of the diversity in patients and diseases. In this study, the researchers compared the effects of sevoflurane to propofol on lung metastases in mouse models. One mouse model resembles the formation of human breast cancers and allows the researchers to mimic mastectomy in patients. The cells are highly tumorigenic and reliably metastasize to many distant organs. The progressive spread of metastases to distant organs in the model is very similar to what occurs in humans. 

The study recovered that the mice that received volatile anesthetic sevoflurane during surgical removal of primary tumor developed more lung metastases than those receiving propofol. Future research is required as anesthetics could affect the course and growth of tumors by changing the cancer cells, the microenvironment, or both. These results can be used to gain more evidence in anesthesia care of cancer patients. 



  1. J. Lin, et. al., Distinct effects of general anesthetics on lung metastasis mediated by IL-6/JAK/STAT3 pathway in mouse models. Nature Communications, 1-10 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-14065-6. 
  2. Image Retrieved from: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/when-i-put-you-the-mask-count-from-the-back-royalty-free-image/640066252

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