Say Yes to Eustress

Apr 22, 2024

“Wound up,” “stressed out,” “burned out,” “tied up in knots,” “on pins and needles,” “on eggshells,” “tensions are running high,” “I’m pulling my hair out,” “can’t take it anymore” etc.

The English language has about 100 different ways to talk about the harmful effects of stress.

These expressions reinforce the popular impression that all stress is bad. True, a lot of stress potentially leads to distress, which is negative. However, according to Hans Selye (1907-1982), the pioneering Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist, shown below, who coined the term, a little stress or eustress (yoo-stres), because it may increase adaptation and, by extension, performance and resilience, is positive. Conversely, too little stress or sustress (soo-stres) is harmful because it may prevent that same adaptation and resilience.

By Jean-Paul Rioux - This document comes from Division des archives et de la gestion de information (DAGI) de Université de Montréal and was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as part of the Archives/UdeM project., CC BY-SA 4.0

We post about sustress and eustress as we enroll the KEVLARx Phase 2b clinical trial where EpicentRx small molecule, RRx-001 (nibrozetone), is administered with cisplatin and radiotherapy (CRT) to prevent or mitigate the development of the most feared CRT complication, severe oral mucositis (SOM).

RRx-001 is a “eustressor,” meaning that, like the bulletproof material, Kevlar, shown below, which pioneering #DuPont chemist, Stephanie Kwolek, invented (read post here) it may help through several mechanisms to neutralize the devastating force of oxidative stress and inflammation, two important contributors to the development of SOM. These mechanisms include activation of the antioxidant, Nrf2, and inhibition of NF-κB and the NLRP3 inflammasome, which are key igniters of inflammation.

The relationship between sustress, eustress, and distress is represented below as an upside-down U-shaped curve.

In response to a stressful event, such as the diagnosis of cancer or the development of severe oral mucositis from the treatment of cancer, conventional wisdom recommends that “rest is best.” However, we might suggest instead, based on the above U-shaped curve and previous anti-mucositis observations with RRx-001 (nibrozetone), that “eustressed is best.”