Fighting Breast Cancer By Blocking Lipid Metabolism
Posted Apr 04 2011 4:18pm
Research has shown us that lipid metabolism is an important part of breast cancer (and other cancers) development and progression. One of the best known lipids, cholesterol, has been shown to be linked to more advanced and more aggressive breast tumors when fed to animals in high amounts typical of a Western diet. However, cholesterol is only one of many lipids. Numerous lipids are integral to the structural integrity of our cells' membranes; however, the link between changes in these lipids and breast cancer is unclear.
To better understand the impact of cellular lipids (fats) on breast cancer development and outcomes, researchers analyzed the lipid characteristics of 267 human breast tissues (both cancer and non-cancer tissues) to determine differences between breast cancer tissue and healthy breast tissue. Analysis of the lipid profiles showed that production of new fatty acids were incorporated in the cell membrane lipids of breast cancer tumors to a substantially greater extent compared to healthy breast tissues. The concentrations of these lipids were greatest in estrogen receptor negative breast cancer tissues and Grade 3 tumors, suggesting that increased lipid production and metabolism was linked to more advanced and aggressive breast cancer tumors. In addition to the changes in the lipids themselves, the researchers demonstrated that genes involved in lipid metabolism were dramatically enhanced in breast cancer tissues. Interestingly, the study investigators showed that blocking the activity of these genes decreased the ability of the breast cancer cells to thrive.
These are interesting results that might be important for both breast cancer diagnosis and breast cancer treatment. Analysis of the lipid profile of the breast cancer tumor might help characterize the stage and aggressiveness of the breast cancer, which is vital to the development of a targeted and personalized breast cancer treatment plan. Additionally, if future research continues to show that breast cancer cells can be killed by blocking their lipid metabolism, then new breast cancer treatments aimed at this target might prove effective. Whether the lipid profile in breast tissue can be altered by dietary choices remains an unanswered question at this point.