Sunday, May 19, 2024

New Insights: Heart Ailments Linked to Elevated Cancer Risks

A groundbreaking study by Tel Aviv University and the Leviev Cardiothoracic and Vascular Center at Sheba Medical Center has uncovered a biological mechanism that may explain why heart disease patients are at an increased risk of developing cancer. Researchers discovered that small extracellular vesicles (sEVs) released by ailing hearts into the bloodstream could accelerate cancer cell proliferation.

The collaborative research, spearheaded by Prof. Jonathan Leor and Tal Caller, a medical and research student, focused on how these vesicles, typically involved in cell repair and communication, could inadvertently promote cancer when secreted in large amounts by damaged heart tissue. This finding might transform treatment protocols, integrating cancer risk assessment into cardiovascular care strategies.

In 2013, the connection between cardiac issues and cancer was first suggested by cardiologist Tal Hasin. It’s now known that patients with heart conditions are more susceptible to cancer, notably in countries like the US and Israel, where heart disease remains a leading cause of mortality. The current study delves deeper, identifying the vesicles as not just carriers of healing elements, but also of factors that can encourage tumor growth and alter immune responses.

These vesicles traverse the circulatory system, reaching tumors or tissues prone to cancer, laden with growth stimulants and elements that foster blood vessel formation, which are essential for tumor development. Prof. Leor pointed out that the study marks the first identification of sEVs as carriers of numerous growth factors directly contributing to tumor proliferation and immune system modulation.

Further testing on animal models showed that inhibiting these vesicles could reduce cancer risk, though such an approach proved too harmful to pursue clinically. Instead, researchers explored using spironolactone, a drug for heart failure, which reduced vesicle production by 30% and slowed cancer growth, demonstrating a potential preventative strategy for heart patients against cancer.

The implications of this research are vast, suggesting adjustments in current heart treatments to mitigate cancer risks. Identifying biomarkers for cancer risk among heart patients could also lead to more tailored and preventative treatment approaches.

Moshe Bar-Haim, CEO of the Israel Cancer Association, emphasized the global impact of this research, funded by public contributions, highlighting its potential for immediate application in improving patient care worldwide.

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