To better understand this role, cancer epidemiologist Cornelia Ulrich of Huntsman
Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City and
colleagues recently analyzed studies that
explore how fat cells, also called adipose
tissue, send signals to cancer cells. “We
have evidence now for a bidirectional
interaction that goes back and forth
between the adipose cells and the tumor
cells,” Ulrich says.
The research, published in the
September 2017 Cancer Prevention
Research, suggests that different types of
adipose tissue may play different roles in
cancer development, growth and metastasis, depending on its location and proximity to the tumor tissue. For example,
cells in the breast are made up of fat
that secretes different signals than fat
packed tightly around abdominal organs.
The latter type of fat, known as visceral
adipose tissue, is considered more meta-
bolically active than other types of fat, but
scientists have yet to understand the role
these fat cells play in cancer development
Ulrich spoke with Cancer Today about
the obesity-cancer link and what this could
mean for patients.
CT: Do fat cells appear to have a role in
ULRICH: What we have learned over the
past years is that adipose tissue secretes
substances that can be relevant for the
growth of tumors.
C T: How could fat fuel cancer cells?
ULRICH: There are what we call paracrine
and endocrine relationships. Paracrine is
the relationship where cells secrete substances that then can interact with tissues
Obesity is a risk factor for many cancer types, including endometrial, liver, ovarian, kidney, colorectal and postmenopausal breast cancers. What’s less clear is how
fat contributes to cancer risk and progression.
CANCER EPIDEMIOLOGIST CORNELIA ULRICH DISCUSSES
RESEARCH THAT EXPLORES HOW FAT CELLS AND CANCER
PHOTO COUR TES Y OF CORNELIA ULRICH