New Research Reveals Obesity’s Impact on Cancer Cells

Obesity makes the immune system's Natural Killer cells unable to fight off cancer cells.

New Research Reveals Obesity's Impact on Cancer Cells
Credit: iStock/Wojciech Kozielczyk

New research points to an increased connection between obesity and cancer

The study, out of Trinity College Dublin, have discovered what may be a breakthrough in the prevalence of cancer in obese people. The researchers noted that Natural Killer cells-  – the body’s front line immune system fighting against cancer — can be rendered dysfunctional in the presence of excess fat. 

The research could play a significant role in future treatments that move toward “unclogging” Natural Killer cells from excess fat so they can return to their jobs of fighting the disease.

According to the research, the Killer cells weighed down by fat can still recognize tumor cells, they just can’t act to attack them. Once the fat was removed, researchers were able to reprogram the cells and they resumed their cancer-fighting abilities.

“Despite increased public awareness, the prevalence of obesity and related diseases continue,” said Lydia Lynch, Associate Professor in Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, who led the research. “Therefore, there is increased urgency to understand the pathways whereby obesity causes cancer and leads to other diseases, and to develop new strategies to prevent their progression.”

“Our results highlight immuno-metabolic pathways as a promising target to reverse immune defects in obesity, and suggest that metabolic reprogramming of Natural Killer cells may kick-start their anti-cancer activity and improve treatment outcomes.”

The findings show significant promise as nearly 2 billion adults on the planet are overweight or obese. There are more people with excess weight issues now than those without enough food to eat. 

Obesity and obesity-related illnesses create significant burdens and financial strains. Nearly half of certain types of cancers are attributed to obesity and the condition is linked to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a number of other issues that lead to increased healthcare costs.

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