Cancer is most deadly when it has begun to spread. This is because successful treatment is much more difficult.
Scientists around the globe are therefore trying to understand how cancer spread occurs and how to stop it.
In a recent study, researchers identified a specific protein called CD36 on cancer cells, which have the ability to metastasize (spread).
CD36, found in the cell membranes of tumor cells, is responsible for taking up fatty acids.
This unique CD36 activity and dependence on fatty acids distinguishes metastasis-initiating cells from other tumor cells.
The team found CD36 was present on metastatic cancer cells from patients with a range of different tumors including oral cancer, melanoma skin cancer, ovarian, bladder, lung and breast cancer.
To confirm its essential role in cancer spread, they added CD36 to non-metastatic cancer cells which then caused the cells to become metastatic.
The researchers next looked at the role of fat intake on cancer spread.
They provided mice with a high-fat diet and then injected them with a type of human oral cancer. The high-fat diet caused 50% more mice to have larger and more frequent cancer spread.
They tested a specific saturated fatty acid called palmitic acid — a major component of animal and vegetable fats, which is used in many household products from peanut butter and processed food to toothpaste.
The researchers treated human oral tumors with palmitic acid for two days, and then they injected them into mice fed a standard diet.
They found that all the mice with CD36 developed cancer spread compared to only half when not treated with palmitic acid.
The researchers suggest that in mice inoculated with human tumor cells, there seems to be a direct link between fat intake and an increase in cancer spread through CD36.
More studies are needed to confirm this intriguing relationship because many countries are consuming more saturated fats and sugar.
Fat is necessary for the function of the body, but uncontrolled intake can have a bad effect on health.
If you care about cancer, please read studies about the benefits of garlic for fighting cancer and the common cold, and this berry can help prevent diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
For more information about cancer, please see recent studies that most cancers are caused by these 5 things, and results show this vegetable oil is linked to the spread of cancer.
The study was published in the journal Nature.
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