How cigarette smoke worsens head and neck cancer. Head and neck cancer is the sixth leading cancer in the world. About 90% of cases are head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Cigarette smoking is associated with a higher risk of developing the disease and reducing treatment effectiveness.
Scientists investigated the effects of cigarette smoke on tumor progression. They found that cigarette smoke makes head and neck cancer more aggressive. The study findings now appear in the journal Molecular Cancer Research. In the new study, the team wanted to see how cigarette smoke changes the metabolism of the different cells in the tumor.
For the study, researchers exposed fibroblasts of the animal model to cigarette smoke. The team found that fibroblasts triggered a form of metabolism called glycolysis, which develops a metabolites substance that nearby cancer cells use for their growth. They also found that the tobacco-exposed fibroblasts caused tumors in a mouse model of the disease.
In addition, scientists also discovered a protein called monocarboxylate transporter 4 (MCT4) that appeared to drive these metabolic changes. With this type of protein, cigarette smoke exerts cancer aggressiveness.
“We’ve also seen that smoke-exposed fibroblasts interact with other cells in the tumor stroma, such as the cells of the immune system,” explains Marina Domingo-Vidal, a graduate student in Dr. Martinez-Outschoorn’s lab. “A healthy immune system is responsible for recognizing and attacking malignant cells, so it will now be interesting to understand how these altered fibroblasts might influence the efficacy of current immunotherapies.”