Fat protects and helps spread cancer cells - Magaziner Center for Wellness

Fat protects and helps spread cancer cells

Category: Cancer

The role of fat and obesity is being uncovered in new, amazing and concerning research.

Earlier this month (December 2016) Worldwide Cancer Research, a charitable research organization in the United Kingdom, published the findings of  Professor Salvador Aznar Benitah, at the Institute for Research in Barcelona. (IRB)

In this research announced in the prestigious medical journal Nature  the role of fat intake on cancer spread was examined.

  • First the IRB team announced that they have identified a specific protein found on cancer cells called CD36 that has the ability to metastasize (spread). What is considered groundbreaking is that this protein CD36 is responsible for taking in fatty acids. The connection is made between fatty acid intake and metastases, this unique activity of CD36 suggests it is a metastasis-initiating cell.
  • To confirm their finding the IRB team then injected cancer cells and palmitic acid – which is found in high levels in palm oil  and used in many processed foods  into a group of the test mice. The team observed that all the mice with CD36 developed cancer spread compared to only half when not treated with palmitic acid.

The goal of the research team is to help scientists develop CD36 blocking antibodies to prevent the spread of cancer.1

For patients today, the goal should be improving diet as a anti-cancer weapon.


Cancer cells can manipulate fat to create a protective cocoon against chemotherapy


Doctors found that fat can be manipulated by cancer cells to create a protective cocoon against chemotherapy.

The title of the paper is: Leukemic Stem Cells Evade Chemotherapy by Metabolic Adaptation to an Adipose Tissue Niche and it comes from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus researchers.

In this research the University of Colorado doctors may have found a link as to why obese patients have poorer outcomes.  It comes down to cancer stem cells manipulating fat stem cells.

Across many cancer types, obese patients fare worse than leaner patients. A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell offers a compelling hypothesis why: researchers found that leukemia stem cells “hide” in fatty tissue, even transforming this tissue in ways that support their survival when challenged with chemotherapy.

It is as if leukemia stem cells not only use fatty tissue as a “robbers’ cave” to hide from therapy, but actively adapt this cave to their liking.”

The researchers started by examining cancer cells found in the adipose tissue of a mouse model of leukemia. Rather than the expected mix of regular cancer cells with cancer stem cells, the group found that this fatty tissue was enriched for cancer stem cells.. . . Not only was there a disproportionately high ratio of stem cells in adipose tissue, but these stem cells used a different energy source than stem cells in the bone marrow microenvironment – appropriately, these stem cells in fatty tissue powered their survival and growth with fatty acids, manufacturing energy by the process of fatty acid oxidization. In fact, these adipose tissue stem cells actively signal fat to undergo a process called lipolysis which releases fatty acids into the microenvironment.2

To sum this up, obese cancer patients offer their cancer unlimited energy sources by way of fatty acids and a nurturing micro-environment to use that energy to grow with. It is a fascinating hyposthesis on the dangers of obesity and cancer. But this is not the first study to point out these dangers, but it was the first to display it on a stem cell cellular level.


Draining Cancer’s Happy Environment 


In another new study, doctors who were trying to show that gastric bypass surgery can be a cancer prevention procedure found that the weight loss inspired by bypass surgery and caloric restriction were sufficient to significantly reduce elevated oxidative/nitrative stress and genomic damage in obese laboratory rats.3

The keywords in the above study are weight loss, calorie restriction, reduction of the chemical stress elements that lead to a cancer friendly environment in the body.

Of course we agree weight loss and calorie restriction are positive lifestyle changes – we do not agree bypass surgery is the best way to get there.


Weight loss and calorie restriction can drain cancer cells


Weight loss and caloric restriction are also seen, not only as part of preventing the happy cancer environment, but of preventing age related energy loss. This was supported in new research in the cancer journal Oncotarget. Here doctors said that metabolic reprogramming (caloric restriction) is a determinant of aging, and is retarded by caloric restriction to counteract aging.4

The connection here is that energy loss again and aging present vulnerabilities that cancer thrive in.

Let’s introduce another term. Epigenesis. Epigenesis is the biological definition of how we form from a fertilized egg to a multi-organ individual. It is a “super genesis” of creation.

Cancer also grows through this epigenesis process – mutating and evolving – so therapies that suppress cancer’s abilities to mutate and evolve would be called Epigenetic regulation therapies and things such as caloric restriction and bioactive phytochemicals – spices such as turmeric – would be called weapons of epigenetic targeting.

These interventions have been shown to possess epigenetic modulatory activities in multiple cancers. These therapies have been shown to delay aging and minimize the risk of cancer both in preclinical as well as clinical models. Therefore, knowledge of bioactive phytochemicals along with dietary interventions can be utilized for cancer prevention and therapy both alone and with existing drugs to achieve optimum efficacy.5


Caloric restriction and cancer – the evidence mounts


In a broad review of the medical research over the past thirty years, doctors at the The University of Texas at Austin agree that calorie restriction is one of the most potent broadly acting dietary interventions for inducing weight loss and for inhibiting cancer.6

In their study, the doctors point to the following:

  • Observational studies support that caloric restriction has beneficial effects on longevity and cancer risk in humans.
  • Moderately reduced caloric intake decreased morbidity and mortality among Spanish nursing home residents.
  • Inhabitants of Okinawa, Japan, who until recently consumed significantly fewer calories than residents of the main Japanese islands, have lower death rates from a broad spectrum of cancers and other chronic diseases than inhabitants of the Japanese mainland.

In recent research from the University of California doctors show that periodically adopting a diet that mimics the effects of fasting may yield a wide range of health benefits.

Bimonthly cycles of fasting/low calorie diets that lasted four days which started at middle age mice;

  • extended life span,
  • reduced the incidence of cancer,
  • boosted the immune system,
  • reduced inflammatory diseases,
  • slowed bone mineral density loss and improved the cognitive abilities of older mice tracked in the study.

In this study the diet slashed the individual’s caloric intake down to 34 to 54 percent of normal, with a specific composition of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and micronutrients.

The same research had shown that can help starve out cancer cells while protecting immune and other cells from chemotherapy toxicity.7


Knee pain treatments for the overweight
Dr. Greenberg and Dr. Magaziner

Do you have questions about diet and cancer cells?Contact us!


1 Gloria Pascual, Alexandra Avgustinova, Stefania Mejetta, Mercè Martín, Andrés Castellanos, Camille Stephan-Otto Attolini, Antoni Berenguer, Neus Prats, Agustí Toll, Juan Antonio Hueto, Coro Bescós, Luciano Di Croce, Salvador Aznar Benitah. Targeting metastasis-initiating cells through the fatty acid receptor CD36. Nature (2016) doi:10.1038/nature20791

2 Bankoglu EE, Seyfried F, Rotzinger L, Nordbeck A, Corteville C, Jurowich C, Germer CT, Otto C, Stopper H. Impact of weight loss induced by gastric bypass or caloric restriction on oxidative stress and genomic damage in obese Zucker rats Free Radic Biol Med. 2016 Mar 2. pii: S0891-5849(16)00092-7. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2016.02.033. [Epub ahead of print]

3 Feng Z, Hanson RW, Berger NA, Trubitsyn A. Reprogramming of energy metabolism as a driver of aging. Oncotarget. 2016 Feb 23. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.7645. [Epub ahead of print]

4. Khan S, Shukla S, Sinha S, Meeran SM. Epigenetic targets in cancer and aging: dietary and therapeutic interventions. Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2015 Dec 15. [Epub ahead of print]

5. Hursting, Stephen D., et al. “Calorie Restriction, Aging, and Cancer Prevention: Mechanisms of Action and Applicability to Humans*.” Annual review of medicine 54.1 (2003): 131-152.

6. Diet that mimics fasting appears to slow aging. Keck School of Medicine at USC

7. Alok Mishra. Curcumin modulates cellular AP-1, NF-kB, and HPV16 E6 proteins in oral cancer. ecancermedicalscience, 2015; 9 DOI: 10.3332/ecancer.2015.525