Head and Neck Cancers Coverage from Every Angle
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Does Cigarette Smoke Prompt Head and Neck Cancer Aggressiveness?

By: Kayci Reyer
Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

According to research published in Molecular Cancer Research, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is driven to increased aggressiveness by cigarette smoke. The smoke causes reprogramming to occur in tumor stroma.

“Cigarette smoke changes the metabolism of cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas, making the tumors more efficient as an ecosystem to promote cancer growth,” noted Ubaldo Martinez-Outschoorn, MD, of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, in a Thomas Jefferson University press release.

The study investigated the effects of cigarette smoke on the common tumor stroma, fibroblasts. When exposed to cigarette smoke, the fibroblasts underwent metabolic changes, driving changes that lead to disease progression. The catalyst for these metabolic changes was determined to be the upregulation of a protein called monocarboxylate transporter 4, which appeared on the exposed fibroblasts.

Among the changes induced by exposure to cigarette smoke was increased glycolysis levels, which provide additional fuel for cell growth, and oxidative stress. The exposure also resulted in increased cell migration and acquired resistance to cell death—two features of malignancy that promote disease aggression. To observe the in vitro effects of the exposed cancer cells, a mouse model of the disease was employed. The exposed fibroblasts led to larger tumors in this model.

The research findings have set the stage for a clinical trial, in which the investigators hope to “shut down” the negative metabolic state induced by cigarette smoke.

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information may be found at mcr.aacrjournals.org.

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