1. Fatal attraction: new research reveals link between obesity and cancer progression
French scientists have discovered how fat cells and cancer cells attract each other, causing aggressive tumours to spread beyond the prostate.
The study used experiments in cells and mice to investigate a potential new pathway, regulated by obesity, implicating periprostatic adipose tissue (PPAT) in prostate cancer progression and aggressiveness. PPAT surrounds the prostate gland, and, like other fat depots is an active endocrine organ. They found that these fat cells, surrounding the prostate, release a protein called CCL7 which is attracted to and sticks to a molecule on the surface of prostate cancer cells called CCR3 – in the mouse models this interaction enabled the cancerous cells to move and spread - a key step in the change between a localised prostate cancer cell and aggressive prostate cancer which can spread around the body.
CCL7 has been reported to be over-expressed in adipose tissue in a context of obesity, the researchers confirmed this when they assessed tissue samples of obese individuals and mice. To mimic the effects of obesity, some mice were fed a high fat diet whole others were kept on a normal diet. The migration of prostate cancer cells in response to mouse fat cells was significantly higher when cells migrate towards fat cells obtained from the obese mice compared with that of lean animals. In tissue samples, from men with prostate cancer, the investigators were also able to show that higher levels of the CCR3 molecule were more common in more aggressive forms of the disease.
Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Prostate Cancer UK said; “There is a known link between obesity and developing aggressive prostate cancer, and this research starts to fill in some of the blanks as to why this link might exist. “Prostate cancer is often symptomless in its early stages when it is most treatable and so awareness of risk is crucial. We already know that men over 50, black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer face a greater danger of developing the disease. Being overweight is an important new warning sign to be aware of.”
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