Breast Cancer Fattens Up With Fat Cells

Breast cancer progression linked to adipocytes

(RxWiki News) You probably know that obesity is a risk factor for breast cancer. And if you don’t, you know now. New science shows that breast cancer loves a substance in fat cells.

Fat cells called adipocytes are linked to the progression of breast cancer, thanks to a protein called endotrophin.

Importantly, this molecule could become a target for new breast cancer therapies.

"Get to know your ideal weight."

The study was conducted by Phillip Scherer, PhD and Jiyoung Park, PhD of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Fat cells are called adipocytes. The Col6 protein, when degraded, produces endotrophin.

In an animal study, researchers observed that fat cells surround breast tumors and the endotrophin protein alters the environment of the tumor in such a way that it promotes cancer growth and metastasis (spread).  

In the study, mice with lower levels of of this protein endotrophin had fewer tumors and less metastases.

As a result of these findings, researchers conclude that obesity and cancer progression are linked.

Additionally, endotropin may be a target for anti-cancer drugs to go after.

dailyRx News asked Dr. Scherer, who is professor of medicine at UTSW, to explain what all this means: “Our studies offer an explanation why our fat tissue may serve as such a good host for the growth of breast cancer cells.

"As we gain weight, our fat tissue frequently undergoes pathological changes that lead to an increased risk to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Last but not least, these changes also not only increase the chance of developing cancer, but also decrease the chance to successfully fight the tumor,” said Dr. Scherer who is the director of Touchstone Diabetes Center.

“The molecule endotrophin that we describe here is much more abundant in unhealthy fat tissue. In the context of tumor growth, it attracts immune cells and precursors to blood vessels to the cancer cells that are surrounded by fat cells, and it enables the cancer cells to grow more rapidly,” Dr. Scherer told dailyRx News.

“In addition, it increases the chances that the tumor cells escape and form metastatic tumor lesions elsewhere in the system.”

This study was published in the October issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Review Date: 
October 10, 2012