Study: Cancer cells need fat to spread

The researchers at The Flanders Institute for Biotechnology found in a study that cancer cells require fat to travel through our body and spread. Experts are now working on ways to eliminate this ability of cancer cells. The results of the investigations were published in the journal "Nature".

experts discover the importance of fat in the spread of cancer cells in the human body.(Image: crevis /

Cancer cells use fat as a way to spread
At present, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to treat many types of cancer. The majority of cancer deaths occur when cancer spreads in the human body. In order to spread, the cells use fat as a kind of existing path or they use the fat to create new ways, the authors explain.

cancer cells grow with the help of fat lymphatic vessels
The scientists from the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology succeeded in breakthrough in the research of cancer. The doctors were able to establish that cancer cells have an increased need for fat, in order to allow them to grow pathways( lymphatic vessels), which allow the disease to spread.

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The role of lymph vessels in the spread of cancer
lymph vessels are a special type of vessels. They transport liquid instead of blood. The liquid contained plays a primary role in the spread of cancer, explain the experts. To date, the formation of new lymph vessels( also referred to as lymphangiogenesis) has been a poorly researched procedure. This means that clinically approved drugs are lacking, which can prevent growth.

lymph vessels use more fat
Professor Dr. Peter Carmeliet and his colleagues investigated the metabolism of nutrients through the lymphatic vessels in their study. The investigation began with the simple observation that lymphatics compared to blood vessels use more fat or fatty acids.

Drugs should prevent the fat utilization of the lymph vessels
By using drugs to prevent the fat utilization of the lymph vessels, the so-called lymphatic growth can be prevented. This finding could lead to the inhibition of metastasis in the future, the doctors say. In order to understand why the cells are so dependent on fat, the researchers studied the development of lymphatics.

The effect of the use of fat by lymphatics
Lymph vessels develop during embryonic development from normal blood vessels. This conversion is due to an increase in fat use. The fat is used to produce certain molecules, the scientists say. These can then regulate the expression of the genetic code. The epigenetic changes guarantee the function of the lymphatics. The genetic code( DNA) is not changed by the fat, but the use of the code, which defines the lymphatic gene signature, add the experts.

The growth of the lymph vessels must be controlled
Our study shows that the use of fat by lymphatics is programmed in its development and is necessary for their growth and function, explain the researchers. By improving or preventing the use of fat( or fat products), we can control the growth of the lymph vessels, according to Dr. Dr. Brian Wong continues. This would prevent cancer cells from spreading and lead to more effective treatment for cancer patients.

Further research will deal with fat burning inhibitors
Future research will test so-called fat burn inhibitors on their ability to reduce metastasis in various cancers. It is thus possible to determine whether specific fat supplements( for example in the form of ketone bodies used, for example, by athletes) can heal defective lymph vessels, the scientists say.

Impact of defective lymph vessels
Defective lymph vessels present a major complication in the treatment of cancer patients. In surgical removal of cancer, these vessels can lead to swelling and dysfunction of the arms and legs, which is also known as lymphedema. There is currently no drug available for this problem.
The immediate next studies focus on the further implementation of these findings on cancer, says author Professor Carmeliet. Previously, we were unable to develop drugs that are targeted to the growth of lymph vessels. The reason was that we did not understand their development and function, adds the professor.(as)

experts breakthrough in cancer research
For a long time, physicians have been looking for ways to curb the spread of cancer cells in our bodies. Researchers have now found out that cancer cells need fat to travel through our bodies. The cells use the fat as a kind of transporter, so as to spread in humans. Researchers are now trying to neutralize this ability, so the spread of the harmful cells could be stopped.

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