Immune cells link pregnancy and tumor spread

June 6, 2011

Individuals with cancer often do not die as a result of their initial tumor but as a result of tumors at distant sites that are derived from the initial tumor. Pregnancy is a condition that seems to be permissive for tumor dissemination, as breast tumors arising during pregnancy display a tendency for early spread to distant sites (metastasis). Research in mice, led by Ivan Stamenkovic, at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, has now uncovered a possible reason for this.

Stamenkovic and colleagues found that the increased metastasis from tumors of several different types that they observed in pregnant mice was a result of decreased activity of immune cells known as NK cells. Furthermore, at least part of the inhibitory effect on NK cells was mediated by another group of immune cells, myeloid-derived suppressor cells.

Consistent with this, the of the lungs of pregnant mice (a site to which many of the tumors metastasized) was reflective of myeloid-derived suppressor cell accumulation. Of clinical interest, the majority of genes downregulated in the lungs of pregnant mice were also expressed at lower levels in samples from with poor prognosis than in samples from patients with better prognosis.

The authors therefore suggest that myeloid-derived suppressor cells may represent a shared mechanism of immune suppression during pregnancy and tumor growth.

Explore further: Mechanism for esophageal cancer uncovered

More information: www.jci.org/articles/view/41936?key=bfc78b4e21ad3bc01f34

Related Stories

Mechanism for esophageal cancer uncovered

April 11, 2011

A gene thought to be associated with cancer development can be a tumor suppressor gene in mice, researchers have discovered. Understanding which genes are involved in spreading cancer could lead to future therapies.

Recommended for you

A new weapon for the war on cancer

June 28, 2017

Cancerous tumors are formidable enemies, recruiting blood vessels to aid their voracious growth, damaging nearby tissues, and deploying numerous strategies to evade the body's defense systems. But even more malicious are ...

The gene behind follicular lymphoma

June 28, 2017

Follicular lymphoma is an incurable cancer that affects over 200,000 people worldwide every year. A form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, follicular lymphoma develops when the body starts making abnormal B-cells, which are white ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.