Trigger for Metastasis

  • Author: Marek Czykanski
  • Published: 10 December 2016
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: Nature/Nature Publishing Group
thumbnail image: Trigger for Metastasis

Salvador Benitah, Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Spain, and colleagues discovered in samples of oral cancer tumors a small population of cells that has an unusually large number of the fatty acid receptor CD36. To check whether these cells use lipids to gain the large amounts of energy they need to settle and survive far from the primary tumor, the researchers injected these human cells into cancerous mice. In the animals, the tumors began to metastasize. A particularly high-fat diet seemed to accelerate this process.

The researchers also succeeded in stopping the process by blocking the CD36 receptors using special antibodies. Even existing metastases shrank or disappeared completely. At least in the cell experiment the antibodies caused the same effect in skin cancer and breast cancer. In addition, an analysis of available data from the literature showed that the expression of CD36 in patients with different carcinomas is clearly associated with a poor survival prognosis, for example, in lung and bladder cancer.

The researchers think that the CD36 cells initiate a general metastasis mechanism that is typical for many cancers and that they rely on fats from food, among other things. To attack these cells or even the fatty acid receptors occurring thereon can prove to be an effective therapy for the targeted control of metastases in the future. Whether avoiding certain fats in food can also be helpful, still needs to be tested.


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