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How does obesity increase the risk of cancer spread?

  • Researcher: Dr Hector Peinado Selgas
  • Institution: Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Madrid, Spain
  • Award Amount: £188,810 for 3 years from 1st June 2016
  • Cancer Type: Breast Cancer
How does obesity increase the risk of cancer spread?
Being very overweight is linked to an increased risk of developing cancer, but researchers don’t yet know exactly why this is. Dr Hector Peinado Selgas and his team in Madrid have an idea, and they are using their Worldwide Cancer Research funding to investigate.

“Obesity is fast becoming a major problem for humankind.” Says Dr Peinado Selgas. “An obese person is more likely to develop cancers such as bowel cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. We want to map the biological processes which link obesity to cancer progression and cancer spread.”

“We already have data which hint that tumour cells and fat cells send small ‘parcels’, known as exosomes, to communicate with each other. In this new project we want to study how this exosome-based cross-talk could increase the risk of the cancer spreading.”

Dr Peinado Selgas and his team will use patient samples to investigate how the chemical make-up of the exosome parcels change depending on patient obesity and how their cancer progresses. “We can detect traces of these exosomes in the blood,” says Dr Peinado Selgas, “so ultimately we want to see if we can define specific exosome ‘signatures’ that might give a clue to how and when a person’s cancer might spread. This will also help us design new therapies to target the pathways which regulate cancer growth and spread.”
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