Scientists following a cancer-targeting molecule called TRAIL have established a link between inflammation and cancer susceptibility through this receptor.
Dr. Wafik S. El-Deiry, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, engineered mice to render them without the TRAIL receptor on their cells.
He and his colleagues then exposed mice to radiation so that the subjects would develop chronic pneumonia.
The researcher observed that the mice had not only developed pneumonia but tumours also.
El-Deiry said that the finding evidenced a connection between cancer susceptibility and inflammation, in cases where the subjects lacked the TRAIL receptor.
"One benefit of this work is that it provides a new and unanticipated model implicating a TRAIL pathway deficiency in the chronic toxicity of radiation therapy," he said.
His team is now looking within tumour tissue for inflammatory molecules as clues to how cancer and inflammation are coupled.
"Our work with TRAIL and its receptor in mouse models represents a new way to look at cancer susceptibility and its potential therapy in humans as well as new ways to decrease debilitating radiation side-effects experienced by cancer patients," El-Deiry said.
The study has been reported in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.