Cholesterol could feed cancer, researchers warn

'Bad' cholesterol can help cancer cells move around the body, new research suggests. Photo / Thinkstock
'Bad' cholesterol can help cancer cells move around the body, new research suggests. Photo / Thinkstock

Bad cholesterol helps cancer spread around the body, new research suggests.

Australian scientists say the cholesterol regulates the machinery that controls the movement of cells in the body.

This discovery, they say, is a major finding in the search to explain why cancer spreads throughout the body - and of particular concern to those who have high cholesterol readings.

The paper's senior author, associate professor Thomas Grewal from the University of Sydney, said the research had important implications for cancer research.

"One of the things that makes cancer so difficult to treat is the fact that it can spread around the body," he said.

"Most of the cells in our bodies stick to neighbouring cells through the help of Velcro-like molecules on their surface known as integrins.

"Unfortunately, integrins also help cancer cells that have broken away from a cancerous tumour to take root elsewhere in the body.

"Our study identified that 'bad' cholesterol controls the trafficking of tiny vessels which also contain these integrins, and this has huge effects on the ability of cancer cells to move and spread throughout the body.

"Our research found that having high amounts of 'bad' cholesterol seems to help the integrins in cancer cells to move and spread.

"In contrast, we found that high levels of 'good' cholesterol keeps integrins inside cells and may therefore protect against cancer cell spread."

Researchers have extensively examined how integrins can move to the inside of cells.

Cholesterol, one of the major lipids in the body, is needed to keep integrins on the cell surface of cancer cells.

However, until now it was unclear where this cholesterol was coming from and how one could manipulate this to treat cancer.

"Our findings contribute to the debate that cholesterol levels may be associated with cancer incidence," associate professor Grewal said.

"In fact, malignant cancer cells are known to take up increased amounts of 'bad' cholesterol.

"Our findings advance the theory that knowing how to manipulate and lower 'bad' cholesterol could significantly help to reduce the ability of cancer cells to spread."

- Daily Mail

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