Obesity can cause cancer as a type of cell the body uses to destroy cancerous tissue gets clogged by fat and stops working, a new discovery in Ireland found.
Up to 49% of certain types of cancer are attributed to obesity. Experts already suspected fat sent signals to the body that could both damage cells, leading to cancer, and increase the number of them.
The new study of the Trinity College Dublin reveals the actual mechanism by which the body's cancer-fighting cells get clogged by fat.
Here, we show that obesity induces robust peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-driven lipid accumulation in NK cells, causing complete ‘paralysis’ of their cellular metabolism and trafficking”, write researchers in their study.
A lot of research focuses on how tumours grow in order to find metabolic targets to stop them, so this is a reminder that we should consider the metabolism of immune cells too", commented to BBC Dr Leo Carlin, from the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute.
A compound that can block the fat uptake by natural killer cells might help. We tried it in the lab and found it allowed them to kill again. But arguably a better way would be to lose some weight - because that is healthier for you anyway, Prof Lydia Lynch commented to BBC.