The fact that cigarettes are bad for your health shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. The Surgeon General has been warning about the dangers of smoking for decades and the list of health complications caused by cigarettes is lengthy.
Evidence shows that smokers in Phoenixville not only have a much higher risk of developing head and neck cancers, but that when they do, these cancers tend to be more aggressive than in non-smoking patients.
The Link Between Cigarette Smoke & Tumor Progression
What kind of tumors do cigarettes cause?
Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type in the world. Most cases are categorized as head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) that develop in the outer layer of the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat.
Cigarette smoking is a leading risk factor and also reduces the effectiveness of treatment in patients who develop these types of tumors.
Can cigarette smoke affect cancer cell growth?
Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University set out to study the effects of cigarette smoke on tumor progression. Their findings, published in the online journal Molecular Cancer Research, show that cigarette smoke changes the metabolism of cells in patients with HNSCC, promoting cancer growth and effectively making the tumors more aggressive.
Ubaldo Martinez-Outschoorn, MD, Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center—Jefferson Health, led the study. He and his colleagues had previously looked at interactions between fibroblasts and cancer cells and found that the metabolic products generated by fibroblasts helped promote tumor growth.
He concluded that HNSCC tumors thrive “when these distinct groups of cells support each other…that’s where tumors are most aggressive.”
Multiple studies helped pinpoint cigarette and cancer cause and effect
In the new study, Dr. Martinez-Outschoorn’s team exposed fibroblasts to cigarette smoke and observed that this caused an increase in a type of metabolism called glycolysis, which is used by the cancerous cells to help fuel their growth.
Furthermore, the cancer cells developed better mobility and resistance to cell death—key features of malignancy. One protein in particular, monocarboxylate transporter 4 (MCT4), was key in driving these metabolic changes.
Scientists are hopeful they can manipulate this protein and figure out how to reverse it.
Understanding how the smoke-exposed fibroblasts interact with cells of the immune system might also help researchers figure out how to help the immune system recognize and attack malignant cells, a development that could lead to a more effective immunotherapy treatment.
New trials are already underway
A new clinical trial will investigate whether a two-pronged approach involving the diabetes drug metformin and an immunotherapy drug called durvalumab might work together to slow down the growth of cancer cells and strengthen the cells of the immune system.
In the meantime, your best bet, as always, is to avoid smoking cigarettes. If you would like help on quitting, contact an ear, nose and throat specialist in Phoenixville for tips and strategies.
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