Fat Feeds Tumors

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Science  26 Jun 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5935, pp. 1621
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_1621a
CREDIT: ZHANG ET AL., CANCER RES. 69, 5259 (2009)

Weight-loss campaigns emphasize the impact of obesity on the risk of heart disease and diabetes, but in reality the situation may be even grimmer. Emerging evidence suggests that obesity also increases the risk of developing common cancers such as breast and colorectal cancer and may be associated with a poorer prognosis if cancer occurs. The biological mechanisms by which obesity affects tumorigenesis are unclear, although research has centered on the concept that adipose tissue (fat) serves as a source of hormones, growth factors, and cytokines that promote tumor cell growth or invasiveness.

Zhang et al. provide evidence for an intriguing alternative in which adipose-derived cells rather than signaling molecules play a key role. Using mouse tumor models, they show that stromal and endothelial cells derived from white adipose tissue (WAT) are recruited by tumors to help build the blood vessels required for tumor expansion. Mobilization of these cells (green) into the circulation and their engraftment into the tumor stroma and vasculature (red) were associated with an increase in tumor growth and progression in the mice. Whether WAT-derived cells function similarly in human tumors remains to be explored.

Cancer Res. 69, 5259 (2009).

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