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New evidence that cancer spread is increased by high fat diets after a cancer-spreading protein is discovered

Professor Salvador Aznar Benitah, EACR member of nearly 20 years and speaker at 2015's EACR conference series meeting Basic Epigenetic Mechanisms in Cancer, has headed a study which has identified a protein called CD36 on cancer cells which are able to metastasize.

The research, conducted at the Institute for Research in Barcelona, was partly funded by Worldwide Cancer Research and was published in the leading scientific journal Nature on 07 December 2016.

The study found that CD36 activity and dependence on fatty acids distinguishes metastasis-initiating cells from other tumour cells. It confirmed its crucial role in cancer spread by adding the protein to non-metastatic cancer cells which caused the cells to become metastatic.

Further research using the diets of mice found that a high fat diet caused 50% more mice to have larger and more frequent metastases and by blocking CD36 metastasis could be prevented. New antibody-based therapeutics based on these findings could be suitable for treating a range of cancers in the future.

“We expect this study to have a big impact on the scientific community and to further advance metastasis research, and we hope to be able to validate the potential of CD36 as an anti-metastasis treatment. Things like this don’t happen every day.” - Professor Benitah, Head of the Stem Cell and Cancer Lab at IRB Barcelona.

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19 Dec 2016

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