Alcohol activates cellular changes that make tumor cells spread
Alcohol consumption has long been linked to cancer and its spread, but the underlying mechanism has never been clear. Now, researchers at Rush University Medical Center have identified a cellular pathway that may explain the link.
In a study published in the current issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the researchers found that alcohol stimulates what is called the epithelial–to–mesenchymal transition, in which run-of-the-mill cancer cells morph into a more aggressive form and begin to spread throughout the body.
"Our data are the first to show that alcohol turns on certain signals inside a cell that are involved in this critical transition," said Christopher Forsyth, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and biochemistry at Rush University Medical Center and lead author of the study.
The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition is a hot area of research right now, implicated in the process whereby cancer cells become metastatic. A large body of laboratory and clinical research suggests that it plays a key role in making cancer cells aggressive.
"Cancer cells become dangerous when they metastasize," Forsyth said. "Surgery can remove a tumor, but aggressive tumor cells invade tissues throughout the body and take over. If we can thwart this transition, we can limit cancer's toll."
The researchers treated colon and breast cancer cell lines with alcohol and then looked for the biochemical hallmarks of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, including evidence of a transcription factor called Snail and of the receptor for epidermal growth factor. Snail controls the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; when overexpressed in mice, it induces the formation of multiple tumors. Epidermal growth factor is required by many cancer cells. "They need lots of it," Forsyth said. "They are addicted to it."
Laboratory tests showed that alcohol activated both these and other biochemicals characteristic of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Tests also demonstrated that the alcohol-treated cells had lost their tight junctions with adjacent cells, a preparation for migrating, as metastatic cells do.
In addition, Forsyth and his colleagues found that the same roster of biomarkers was activated in normal intestinal cells treated with alcohol, suggesting that alcohol not only worsens the profile of existing cancer cells but also may initiate cancer by stimulating the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
Source: Rush University Medical Center
- Alcohol activates cellular changes that make tumour cells spreadfrom Science CentricWed, 28 Oct 2009, 8:21:18 EDT
- Link Between Alcohol And Cancer Explained: Alcohol Activates Cellular Changes That Make Tumor Cells Spreadfrom Science DailyTue, 27 Oct 2009, 4:28:40 EDT
- Alcohol activates cellular changes that make tumor cells spreadfrom Science BlogMon, 26 Oct 2009, 23:42:07 EDT
- Alcohol activates cellular changes that make tumor cells spreadfrom Science BlogMon, 26 Oct 2009, 20:21:36 EDT
- Scientists identify a cellular pathway by which alcohol may promote cancer progressionfrom PhysorgMon, 26 Oct 2009, 16:56:14 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Scientists reveal the secret of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- A cleansing rain falls; a soil-filled mist arises
- Concussion outcomes differ among football players from youth to college
- US climate-adaptation plans long on ideas, short on details, priorities
- New interpretation of the Rök runestone inscription changes view of Viking Age
- Volcanoes tied to shifts in Earth's climate over millions of years
- Bourbon or rye? You can't tell the difference, new study says
- DNA barcodes gone wild
- Consuming too much fructose during pregnancy raises the child's risk for heart disease
- Columbia Engineering-led team advances single molecule electronic DNA sequencing