How Blood Platelets Speed Cancer's Spread

Study describes two ways they help tumors travel to bone

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 15, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- French researchers have identified two new ways that blood platelets help breast and ovarian cancer spread to bones.

Previous research found that blood platelets seem to enhance the survival of tumor cells and their escape from the blood into surrounding tissue.

A study in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that platelets also act as indirect activators of bone breakdown and are a direct source of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA), which promotes tumor cell division.

In research with mice, the French scientists demonstrated that tumor cells encourage platelets to gather together and to release LPA. In response to LPA, the tumor cells release immune growth stimulants called IL-6 and IL-8 into bone marrow. This causes bone breakdown to occur faster than bone formation.

When the researchers treated the mice with a drug that inhibits platelets from massing together, the mice showed reduced levels of circulating LPA and a significant decline in the spread of cancer to the bones.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about metastatic cancer.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, news release, Dec. 14, 2004

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