Why chronic inflammation could cause cancer

In a recent study from University in Philadelphia, researchers find that inflammation from chronic skin injury can trigger DNAS mutations for skin cancer.

It is well known that extended exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause DNA mutations that lead to skin cancer. Now this new research reveals a totally distinct mechanism.

Previous studies of patients with head and neck cancers have suggested a link between tissue inflammation and cancer, but the mechanism behind this connection has remained elusive.

In the current study, the team studied the cells of children with a rare skin disorder called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB).

Children with RDEB sometimes are called “butterfly children” because their skin’s extreme fragility calls to mind a butterfly’s wings.

Their skins lack the connective protein collagen, which makes their skin prone to blistering and scarring at the slightest touch.

In addition patients have a high risk for developing aggressive cell cancers early in life in frequently injured areas.

Rather than focus on a few cancer-linked genes, the researchers sequenced the entire protein-coding part of the genome in their samples.

This enabled them to detect subtle patterns of DNA mutation across the genome in inflamed and cancerous tissue.

They found that this pattern of mutation is caused by a protein called APOBEC, which normally plays a role in adding diversity to cellular proteins and is also thought to help defend against viruses.

In the RDEB patients, APOBEC appears to become overly active as a consequence of chronic tissue inflammation.

This causes it to introduce mutations across the genome, some of which eventually lead to cancer.

The notion that inflammation and cancer are somehow linked has been gaining traction both in the medical world and in the general public.

The team hopes the new findings will help make further research of this relationship – in skin cancers, head and neck cancers and other conditions – more concrete.

The senior author Andrew South, Ph.D.is an associate professor. UCSF Health dermatologist and geneticist Raymond Cho, MD, Ph.D. is the study’s first author.

The study is published in Science Translational Medicine.

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Source: Science Translational Medicine.