Washington: A new study has found that cancer cells can get activated and spread by infection-fighting white blood cells.
"We are the first to identify this entirely new way that cancer spreads," senior author Dr. Lorenzo Ferri, MUHC director of the Division of Thoracic Surgery and the Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancer Program said.
"What`s equally exciting is medications already exist that are being used for other non-cancer diseases, which may prevent this mechanism of cancer spread or metastasis," he explained.
According to Dr. Ferri, the next steps are to validate if these medicines will work for the prevention and treatment of cancer metastasis, and then to determine the optimal timing and dosing.
Dr. Ferri and his colleagues from McGill University and the University of Calgary used both cultured cells and mouse models of cancer to show that there is a relationship between infection, a white blood cell response (inflammation) and metastasis.
A web-like network called Neutrophils Extracellular Traps (NETs), is produced by white blood cells (neutrophils) in response to an infection and this normally traps and kills invading pathogens, such as bacteria.
The researchers went one step further and showed that breaking down the neutrophil web is achievable by using certain medication.
Furthermore, in mice with cancer, markedly less tumour growth and metastasis occurred after the medication was administered.
This finding was true for a number of different cancer types, suggesting that neutrophil webs may be a common pathway involved in the spreading of many cancers.
"Our study reflects a major change in how we think about cancer progression and, more importantly, how we can treat it," Dr. Ferri said.