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White Blood Cells And Breast Cancer: A Paradox Decoded

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White Blood Cells And Breast Cancer: A Paradox Decoded

(CTN News) – Tumor-associated macrophages, which are white blood cells found in Breast Cancer tumors, can both help and hinder the spread of cancer cells to other organs, according to new research from Karolinska Institutet published in Cell reports.

Breast cancer spreads to the lymphnodes more easily when macrophages producing VEGF-C produce the substance. This may have implications for breast cancer prognosis and treatment.

Taking a closer look at TAMs’ role in breast cancer

Cancer of the breast is one of the most common cancers in the world, and most cases can be treated with hormone therapy. It is possible for breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs, the brain, and the bone marrow, several years after diagnosis. A possible factor in this long-term risk is white blood cells called tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs).

Breast tumors contain a high number of TAMs, which facilitate and inhibit the spread of cancer cells. Perivascular TAMs, a subset of TAMs wrapped around vessels, regulate blood vessel function and stop cancer cells from entering the vasculature and spreading to other organs.

VEGF-C-producing TAMs have dual effects

Charlotte Rolny and colleagues studied TAMs that produce VEGF-C at the Department of Oncology-Pathology. As a result of the effects of this substance, new lymphatic vessels are formed in tumors, facilitating the transfer of cancer cells to other organs.

Researchers discovered that TAMs that express VEGF-C reduce breast cancer spread to the lungs but increase it in lymph nodes.

Implications and mechanisms for clinical practice

Clinical data from breast cancer patients was also examined. TAMs positive for VEGF-C were linked to less severe disease when they were present. Therefore, it appears that TAMs are not only facilitators of metastasis, but also strategic directors of the cancer cells.

What are the reasons behind this behavior of TAMs? Researchers suggest two possible mechanisms. TAMs expressing VEGF-C normalize tumor blood vessels, resulting in less leakiness and better organization. Secondly, these macrophages promote lymph angiogenesis, the formation of new lymphatic vessels, which facilitates the spread of cancer cells.

Potential Therapeutic Effects and Conclusions

TAMs that express VEGF-C play a paradoxical role within the tumor environment, showing fine-tuned orchestration. Rather than merely facilitating metastasis, these macrophages play a strategic role in directing cancer cells to their final destination.

By exploiting the paradox, future therapeutic interventions might prevent metastasis or redirect it in a less harmful direction.

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