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Inflammation markers identify fatigue in breast cancer survivors

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have defined conditions associated with disabling fatigue that persists for years in almost a third of breast cancer survivors, according to a study in the May 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

The key to their fatigue stems from responses within their immune systems.

"These studies identify a biological basis for persistent fatigue in cancer survivors that is implemented by inflammation," said Michael Irwin, M.D., director and senior research scientist, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience, and the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center.

"We have detected a biological marker that is a composite of two immune response elements," he added. "This biomarker identifies ?and can predict ?which women have long term persistent fatigue.

"These findings point the way for development of novel treatment strategies that decrease this inflammatory response and thwart the fatigue that these patients endure."

One component of the marker, Dr. Irwin explained, is a measure of the amount of interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R) free-floating in the blood of breast cancer survivors compared to the amount of that receptor remaining on the membranes of specific blood cells ?where the receptor normally is found and functions within the immune response.

The IL-6R is usually embedded on the surface membrane of white blood cells, or monocytes. In some survivors, however, many of the IL-6R are shed from the monocytes and are soluble within the blood plasma. Those free-floating receptors can still bind to circulating cytokine IL-6, Dr. Irwin noted, and in that form have the potential to interact with cells that normally don't respond to cytokine/receptor activation ?such as brain cells that may regulate fatigue sensation.

IL6 is a biological chemical that helps drive initial immune responses within people. "IL-6 contributes to an activation
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Source:American Association for Cancer Research


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