Scientists have found that the cells responsible for spreading cancer around the bodies of mice have a big weakness – they need certain fats to fuel their growth. Now a team of researchers has shown that by blocking these cells from absorbing fat they can actually stop cancer from metastasising in mice – and they’re hoping the results might help them do the same in humans.
Metastasis is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, but until now, scientists have struggled to understand exactly how and why cancer cells go through the energy-intensive process of splitting off, travelling through the bloodstream, and taking root somewhere else in the body. In the past, it was assumed that sugar was cancer’s main fuel source, but a study earlier this year suggested that we’d been looking at metastasis entirely wrong – what if fat was actually driving the spread of cancer? Now a new study adds more weight to this hypothesis. A team of researchers identified the cells responsible for the spread of oral cancer in mice, and showed that they rely on fatty acids – including palmitic acid, a major component of common food additive palm oil – to spread around the body.
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