Breast cancer spreads more at night

Breast cancer spreads more at night

A new study shows that < strong>breast cancer metastases form more efficientlywhile patients sleep. This finding, in a study led by researchers at the Federal Polytechnic School (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, could significantly change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated in the future. in the magazine 'Nature'.

Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Health (WHO). Each year, about 2.3 million peopleall over the world contract the disease. If doctors find breast cancer early, patients usually respond well to treatment. However, things becomemuch more difficult if the cancer has already metastasized.

To date, cancer research has not paid much attention to the question of when tumors release metastatic cells. Until now, researchers assumed that tumors continuously release these cells. However, the new study by researchers at the ETH Zurich, the University Hospital Basel and the University of Basel has now come to the surprising conclusion that circulating cancer cells that subsequently form metastases They arise mainly during the sleep phase of affected individuals.

The tumor is activated

“When the affected person is asleep, the tumor wakes up“, summarizes the leader of the study, Nicola Aceto, professor of Molecular Oncology at ETH Zurich. During their study, which involved 30 cancer patients and mouse models, the researchers found that the tumor generates more circulating cells when the body is healthy. asleep. Cells that leave the tumor at night also divide more rapidly and therefore have a greater potential to form metastases, compared to those circulating cells that leave the tumor during the day.

“Our research shows that the escape of circulating cancer cells from the original tumor is controlled by hormones such as melatonin, which determine our day and night rhythms,” said Zoi Diamantopoulou, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Zürich ETH.

In addition, the study indicates that the time at which tumor or blood samples are taken for diagnosis may influence oncologists' conclusions. It was an accidental finding along these lines that first put the researchers on the right track: “Some of my colleagues work early in the morning or late in the afternoon; sometimes they also analyze the blood at unusual times,” explains Aceto. Scientists were surprised to discover that samples taken at different times of the day had very different levels of circulating cancer cells.

Sleep hours

Another clue was the surprisingly high number of cancer cells found per unit of blood in the mice compared to the humans. The reason was that, as nocturnal animals,mice sleep during the day, which is when scientists collect most of their samples.

“In our opinion, these results may indicate the need for health professionals to systematically record the time they perform biopsies,” says Aceto. “It can help make the data truly comparable.” p>

The next step for the researchers will be to find out how these findings can be incorporated into existing cancer treatments to optimize therapies. Within the framework of other studies with patients, Aceto wants to investigate if the different types of cancer behave in a similar way to breast cancer and if existing therapies may be more effective. success if patients are treated at different times.

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