"If the cancer cells don't have excess lipids they stick together and form very tight junctions in tumors, but increasing lipids causes them to take on a rounded shape and separate from each other," Le said.
The change in shape is critical to the ability of cancer cells to separate and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream.
The researchers then used another technique, called intravital flow cytometry, to count the number of cancer cells in the bloodstream of the mice. The technique works by shining a laser though the skin and into blood vessels, where the dyed cancer cells are visible.
Results showed the increase in lipids had no impact on the original tumors implanted in the mice. However, the rate of metastasis rose a dramatic 300 percent in the mice fed a high-fat diet.
The researchers later also examined the animals' lungs and counted the number of cancer cells that had migrated to the lungs as a result of metastasis. Those findings supported the other results showing increased metastasis in animals fed a high-fat diet.
The researches used the imaging and cell-counting tools to document that linoleic acid, which is predominant in polyunsaturated fats, caused increasing membrane phase separation, whereas oleic acid, found in monounsaturated fats, did not. Increased membrane phase separation could improve the opportunity of circulating tumor cells to adhere to blood vessel walls and escape to organs far from the original tumor site. The new findings support earlier evidence from other research that consuming high amounts of polyunsaturated fat may increase the risk of cancer spreading.
The findings suggest that com
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