Alcohol consumption has long been linked to cancer and its spread, but the underlying mechanism has never been clear.
Now, researchers at Rush University Medical Center have identified a cellular pathway that may explain the link.
In a study published in the current issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the researchers found that alcohol stimulates what is called the epithelial–to–mesenchymal transition, in which run-of-the-mill cancer cells morph into a more aggressive form and begin to spread throughout the body.
"Our data are the first to show that alcohol turns on certain signals inside a cell that are involved in this critical transition," said Christopher Forsyth, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and biochemistry at Rush University Medical Center and lead author of the study.
The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition is a hot area of research right now, implicated in the process whereby cancer cells become metastatic. A large body of laboratory and clinical research suggests that it plays a key role in making cancer cells aggressive.
"Cancer cells become dangerous when they metastasize," Forsyth said. "Surgery can remove a tumor, but aggressive tumor cells invade tissues throughout the body and take over. If we can thwart this transition, we can limit cancer's toll."
The researchers treated colon and breast cancer cell lines with alcohol and then looked for the biochemical hallmarks of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, including evidence of a transcription factor called Snail and of the receptor for epidermal growth factor. Snail controls the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; when overexpressed in mice, it induces the formation of multiple tumors. Epidermal growth factor is required by many cancer cells. "They need lots of it," Forsyth said. "They are addicted to it."
Laboratory tests showed that alcohol activated both these and other biochemicals characteristic of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Tests also demonstrated that the alcohol-treated cells had lost their tight junctions with adjacent cells, a preparation for migrating, as metastatic cells do.
In addition, Forsyth and his colleagues found that the same roster of biomarkers was activated in normal intestinal cells treated with alcohol, suggesting that alcohol not only worsens the profile of existing cancer cells but also may initiate cancer by stimulating the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
Other researchers at Rush involved in the study were Yueming Tang, PhD, Maliha Shaikh, MS, Dr. Lijuan Zhang and Dr. Ali Keshavarzian. Research support was provided in part by the National Institutes of Health.
Rush University Medical Center includes a 674-bed (staffed) hospital; the Johnston R. Bowman Health Center; and Rush University (Rush Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College).
Rush is currently constructing a 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot hospital building at the corner of Ashland Avenue and Congress Parkway. The new hospital, scheduled to open in 2012, is the centerpiece of a $1-billion, 10-year campus redevelopment plan called the Rush Transformation, which also includes a new orthopedics building (to open in Fall 2009), a new parking garage and central power plant completed in June 2009, renovations of selected existing buildings and demolition of obsolete buildings. The new hospital is being designed and built to conserve energy and water, reduce waste and use sustainable building materials. Rush is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It will be the first full-service "green" hospital in Chicago.
Rush's mission is to provide the best possible care for our patients. Educating tomorrow's health care professional, researching new and more advanced treatment options, transforming our facilities and investing in new technologies—all are undertaken with the drive to improve patient care now, and for the future.
Sharon Butler | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy