WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers at Purdue University have precisely measured the impact of a high-fat diet on the spread of cancer, finding that excessive dietary fat caused a 300 percent increase in metastasizing tumor cells in laboratory animals.
The researchers used an imaging technique to document how increasing fat content causes cancer cells to undergo changes essential to metastasis. Then they used another technique to count the number of cancer cells in the bloodstream of mice fed a high-fat diet compared to animals fed a lean diet.
The findings suggest that the combined tools represent a possible new diagnostic technique to determine whether a patient's cancer is spreading, said Ji-Xin Cheng, an assistant professor in Purdue's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Chemistry.
"It is generally accepted that diet and obesity are accountable for 30 percent of preventable causes of cancer, but nobody really knows why," Cheng said. "These findings demonstrate that an increase in lipids leads directly to a rise in cancer metastasis."
Researchers have theorized that tumor cells need more lipids than ordinary tissues to provide energy and material for tumor growth and metastasis.
"Before this work, however, most of the evidence was anecdotal, but here we present a mechanistic study," said Thuc T. Le, a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at Purdue who is working with Cheng.
Findings were detailed in a paper published on Jan. 30 in the journal BMC Cancer. The paper was written by Le; Terry B. Huff, a graduate research assistant in Purdue's Department of Chemistry; and Cheng. The research is supported by the Purdue Cancer Center.
The researchers implanted a cancerous lung tumor under the skin in each of the mice studied, and the animals were separated into two groups: one fed a high-fat diet and the other a lean diet.
The researchers then used
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