Discovering the cells that initiate metastasis places researchers one step closer to ending cancer and improving its treatment. This research is full of hopes for the medical world as they also identified how to prevent the process of tumor formation from the beginning. Here are some details to keep in mind.
What is metastasis?
The metastases are the great bane of all cancer patients. Metastasis is a process in which the tumor cells extend to another part of the body and reproduce. In this way, cancer spreads to other organs or tissues, which is why control is so important. It is a “silent” expansion that shows no symptoms until the tumor is formed.
The cancer cells that manage to reproduce and separate from the primary tumor, travel through the bloodstream and lodge elsewhere. Once there, they feed, grow and reproduce. This new tumor shares the same characteristics as the initial tumor.
According to specialists, 90% of patients who die from cancer, is due to metastasis. Discovering the cells that initiate metastasis and how the process occurs is crucial to prevent the death of thousands of people around the world.
The relationship between the cells that initiate metastasis and the CD36 protein
The discovery was published in the journal Nature and has everyone dismayed. The research, conducted by a group of researchers led by specialist Salvador Aznar, also states that metastasis is directly related to a protein called CD36. Thus, we are closer to a significant improvement in oncological treatments, in the diagnosis and even in the quality of life of patients.
The specialists focused their study on a group of stem cells that are responsible for the growth of the tumor. Within this cell group, they found a subgroup with a high-fat metabolism. His expansion was also slow and caught his attention. On the surface of these cells is a protein that carries fat, called CD36. CD36 is the access of the fatty acids that serve as food for the cell.
To know this, the researchers added CD36 to tumor cells that did not cause metastasis. After this, these cells began to do so and expand. This protein was found in cells that initiate metastasis in luminal breast cancer, melanoma, carcinoma of the ovary, bladder, and lung. So they could find the beginning of the process of metastasis.
The conclusions of the researchers
“The CD36 marker allows us to purify metastatic populations.” That is, identify the cells that initiate metastasis. Although they do not consider it the only initial factor, they claim to have found a universal one. The greater the amount of CD36, the more likely that the tumor metastasizes.
If CD36 helps to feed the tumor cells with fat, is a high-fat diet able to favor metastasis? To solve this question, studies were conducted on rodents. The conclusions:
-Mice with tumor cells that had a normal diet, metastasized in 30% of the cases
-Mice with tumors that had a 15% more fat diet, presented metastasis in 80% of the cases.
The results are not a coincidence. As it could be observed, the diet “cafeteria” (junk food, with more fat and lower quality) favored metastasis. The tumors were larger and larger.
The worst fatty acid
In addition to identifying the cells that initiate the metastasis, they were able to determine which fats were the fastest that fed and allowed malignant cell development. From what could be noticed the worst was:
– palmitic acid: fatty acid of vegetable origin, present mainly in palm oil. With palm oil the main processed foods are processed, a scrap of the world. It is, by far, the worst quality and effect. It has been discovered that applying palmitic acid for 48 hours on malignant cells increases between 50% and 100% the metastatic frequency in rodent organisms.
How can they improve the treatment of cancer patients?
Knowing how CD36 works provide a new option in terms of existing treatments. As mentioned, this protein performs the function of transporting the lipids to the cell so that it can feed and develop. The key is to interrupt that transport. This can be achieved by using molecules called antibodies. Antibodies bind easily to the protein and interfere with functioning. Achieving this neutrality, the patient with cancer has more possibilities of life and healing. The same Aznar says about it:
“We bought all commercial antibodies to CD36 and found that two of them are effective neutralizers. Not only do they recognize the protein, but they block it and have an anti-metastasis effect ”
Even in 20% of the cases studied, the metastasis was reduced to disappear completely (by the action of the antibodies). In other cases, the metastatic focus was reduced by up to 90%. This decrease was reflected in the number of tumors, size, and development of the malignant cells.
Knowing that the most used option today is chemotherapy, knowing new alternatives provides a light in the dark. Chemical treatments have a host of adverse side effects because they are drugs with high toxicity. In the opposite direction, the new treatments with antibodies have no adverse effects and are very safe for the health of the cancer patient. In addition, its tolerance level is greater than any other existing therapy.
When will we have the new treatment?
Currently, the trials in human organisms began and work in partnership with different technology companies. In case of achieving positive results, we will soon enjoy this benefit. It is estimated that in about 5 to 10 years we will be able to count on the minimally invasive and highly effective treatment. The researchers are very animated:
“Maybe it’s something as simple as modifying the diet of patients with tumors. It is something that we should explore since the cost to the health system would be very low. “