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This Is The Time When Circulating Cancer Cells Are More Active – New Research Suggests

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Researchers were shocked to know that levels of cancer cells in samples taken at different times of the day were very different.

This Is The Time When Circulating Cancer Cells Are More Actively Spread in The Body- New Research Suggests

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that breast cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer. About 2.3 million people around the world get the disease every year.

Patients typically respond favorably to treatment if breast cancer is found in its early stages by doctors. However, if cancer has already spread, things get much more challenging. When circulating cancer cells split out from the primary tumor and migrate through blood arteries to different organs, this process is known as metastasis.

So far, researchers haven’t paid much attention to the problem of when metastatic cells are shed by tumors. Previous research thought that tumors continuously release these cells.

But a new study by scientists at ETH Zurich, the University Hospital Basel, and the University of Basel has found something surprising: most of the circulating cancer cells that later turn into metastases are formed while the person is sleeping.

The study’s findings have just been made public in the journal Nature.

Circadian hormones influence metastasis

Nicola Aceto, professor of molecular oncology at ETH Zurich and study leader, summarizes the phenomenon as “when the affected person is asleep, the tumour awakens.”

The researchers discovered that the tumor produces more circulating cells when the body is sleeping during their investigation, which involved 30 female cancer patients and mice models.

When compared to circulating cells that leave the tumor during the day, cells that leave the tumor at night divide more quickly. This means that they are more likely to spread and form metastases.

According to Zoi Diamantopoulou, a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich and the study’s lead author, The findings of the study show “that the escape of circulating cancer cells from the original tumour is controlled by hormones such as melatonin, which determine our rhythms of day and night.”

Tumor-specific treatments

The study also suggests that the timing of tumor or blood samples for diagnosis may affect oncologists’ conclusions. It was an incidental discovery along these lines that initially led tthem in the right direction.

Aceto says with a smile, “some of my colleagues work early in the morning or late in the evening; sometimes they’ll also analyse blood at unusual hours.” 

The scientists were shocked to discover that cancer cell numbers in samples collected at different times of the day varied significantly.

Another clue was that there were a lot more cancer cells per unit of blood in mice than in people. The cause was that mice, which are nocturnal creatures, slept throughout the day when investigators often collected their samples.

These findings, according to Aceto, “indicate the need for healthcare professionals to systematically record the time at which they perform biopsies.”

“It may help to make the data truly comparable.”

The researchers’ next task will be to determine how to best apply these discoveries to currently used cancer therapy. ETH Professor Nicola Aceto plans to do additional research with patients to determine whether other cancers behave similarly to breast cancer and whether the timing of treatment for patients can improve the effectiveness of current medications.

Image Credit: Getty

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