Cancer cells accelerate aging of nearby connective tissue cells to cause inflammation, which provides "fuel" for the tumour to grow and even metastasise, a new study has found.
Researchers at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson, who carried out the study to determine what makes a tumour grow, and how to make it stop, found our bodies provide nourishment for the cancer cells, via chronic inflammation.
"People think that inflammation drives cancer, but they never understood the mechanism," Michael P. Lisanti, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and a member of the Kimmel Cancer Center, said.
"What we found is that cancer cells are accelerating aging and inflammation, which is making high-energy nutrients to feed cancer cells," he said.
In normal aging, DNA is damaged and the body begins to deteriorate because of oxidative stress.
"We are all slowly rusting, like the Tin-man in the Wizard of Oz. And there is a very similar process going on in the tumour's local environment," Lisanti said.
Interestingly, cancer cells induce "oxidative stress", the rusting process, in normal connective tissue, in order to extract vital nutrients.
"Nobody fully understands the link between aging and cancer," Lisanti, who used pre-clinical models, as well as tumours from breast cancer patients, to study these mechanisms, said.
"What we see now is that as you age, your whole body becomes more sensitive to this parasitic cancer mechanism, and the cancer cells selectively accelerate the aging process via inflammation in the connective tissue," he stated.
This helps explain why cancers exist in people of all ages, but susceptibility increases as you age. If aggressive enough, cancer cells can induce accelerated aging in the tumour, regardless of age, to speed up the process.
The findings were published online June 1 in the journal Cell Cycle in three separate papers.