Adipose Tissue and Cancer Risk

Key Points

  • Adipose tissue may influence the development of cancer in diverse ways, depending on the type of fat (white, brown, or beige), because each acts differently and is present in different amounts depending on where the fat is located in the body.
  • Visceral white adipose tissue is more bioenergetically active and is associated with a more procancer secretome than subcutaneous adipose tissue.
  • Efforts to "eavesdrop" and ultimately interfere with cancer-enhancing crosstalk may lead to new targets and strategies for decreasing the burden of obesity-related cancers.

Although obesity and its associated metabolic dysregulation are established risk factors for many cancers, the biologic mechanisms underlying this relationship are not well understood. Now, the results from a systematic literature review by Himbert et al of human clinical studies exploring the crosstalk between adipose tissue and cancer-prone cells may help researchers gain a better understanding of the biologic mechanisms linking obesity to cancer.

Findings from the clinical studies reviewed have found that adipose stromal cells can infiltrate cancer lesions and promote tumor growth. In addition, visceral white adipose tissue is more bioenergetically active and is associated with a more procancer secretome than subcutaneous adipose tissue. Efforts to "eavesdrop" and ultimately interfere with cancer-enhancing crosstalk between adipose tissue and carcinomas may lead to new targets and strategies for decreasing the burden of obesity-related cancers, according to the study. The study was published in Cancer Prevention Research.

Study Methodology

The researchers conducted a systematic literature search in PubMed/Medline covering publications from January 1946 to March 2017 to identify study literature characterizing crosstalk between adipose tissue and carcinomas. They ultimately found 20 primary research publications of human clinical studies directly relevant in describing adipose tissue/tumor interactions. The different cancer types studied included breast, colorectal, esophageal, endometrial, prostate, and ear/nose/throat.

Study Findings

The researchers found that their analysis of the clinical studies reinforce preclinical data and suggest organ-dependent crosstalk between adipose tissue and carcinomas via vascular endothelial growth factor, interleukein-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and other mechanisms. Moreover, they found that visceral white adipose tissue plays a more central role, as it is more bioenergetically active and is associated with a more procancer secretome than subcutaneous adipose tissue.

Cornelia M. Ulrich, PhD, of Huntsman Cancer Institute, is the corresponding author of this study published in Cancer Prevention Research.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Cancer Institute; Stiftung LebensBlicke; Claussen-Simon-Stiftung; the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology in Iran; and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. 

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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