From Green Right Now Reports

Fat cells may facilitate the growth of cancer tumors by strengthening the blood vessels that supply the tumors, medical researchers in Texas reported in the journal Cancer Research.

Yan Zhang, M.D., Ph.D.; Chieh Tseng and Mikhail Kolonin, Ph.D.,

In seeking to understand the previously discovered link between obesity and certain cancers, the investigators at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston found that the cancer tumors emit a signal that attracts progenitor fat cells to help nourish tumors. They observed this process — called angiogenesis — in laboratory mice.

Previous research had looked at what obese people ate as a possible cause of faster cancer growth in those who are overweight.  But Dr. Mikhail Kolonin, senior author of the Texas study, and his team theorized that the fat tissue played an active role.

“In an attempt to understand how fat tissue fuels tumor growth, our laboratory has focused on a possible role of adipose stromal progenitor cells. These cells serve as stem cells in fat tissue. We have discovered that they expand in obesity and are mobilized into the systemic circulation,” said Kolonin an associate professor at the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases at UT Health.

“For the first time, we have demonstrated that excess fat is a key factor in cancer progression regardless of the diet contributing to the extra weight,” Kolonin said.

Once recruited by the cancer tumor, the fat cells improved vascular function, assisting the proliferation of cancer cells, said Yan Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., the study’s lead author and research scientist.

The team proposed that their work could help many people, because a next logical step would be to develop an intervention to inactivate the adipose cells.

The study, entitle, “Stromal Progenitor Cells from Endogenous Adipose Tissue Contribute to Populations of Pericytes and Adipocytes in Tumor Microenvironment,” was supported by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas and the American Cancer Society.