The time when breast cancer cells silently metastasize

Scientists found that breast cancer cells broke away from the original tumor and spread to other parts of the body while the patient was asleep.

The study, conducted by scientists in Switzerland, was published in the journal Nature, June 22. Previously, experts paid little attention to the activity of cancer cells according to the time of day and night. They assumed that the tumors released metastatic cells continuously.

However, the new findings suggest that they function in accordance with a circadian rhythm, controlled by nighttime hormones such as melatonin and aided in spreading. Cells that leave the tumor at night also divide faster, and are therefore more likely to spread, than cells that work during the day.

Experts studied the tumor activity of 30 breast cancer patients. They found that the tumors produced more circulating cells during sleep hours. This finding helps explain why circulating tumor cells in mice are more active during the day, because these are nocturnal animals.

Breast cancer cells of a patient. Image: Science Source

The researchers believe the new findings could contribute to improving cancer diagnosis and treatment in the future.

“Some of my colleagues work early and late at night. They analyzed blood test results at irregular hours and found that when the patient was asleep, the tumor woke up. In our view For me, this study shows the importance of documenting the timing of the biopsy,” said Nicola Aceto, associate professor of molecular oncology at ETH Zurich, who led the work.

In the next phase, the team hopes to be able to apply the new research to cancer treatment to optimize therapies. Professor Aceto wanted to investigate whether different types of cancer behave in the same way, determining whether a therapy could be more successful if patients were treated at different times.

Thuc Linh (Follow Telegraph)


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