Philadelphia, PA, July 18, 2013 Cancer researchers have wondered why ovarian cancer cells are so attracted to the abdominal cavity, especially the omentum, with the hope that such an understanding could lead to better disease management or even prevention. Results from a series of experiments suggest a two-step model of omental colonization in which i) cancer cells are attracted to and lodge within immune cell-containing structures known as milky spots, and ii) fat storage cells (adipocytes) fuel cancer cell growth and spread. This study is scheduled for publication in the August 2013 issue of The American Journal of Pathology.
The omentum is a large fatty structure that drapes off the stomach and blankets the peritoneal organs. Omental fat is composed of adipocytes, blood vessels, immune cells, and other connective tissue and contains unusual immune cell-containing structures known as milky spots, which play a key role in many of its protective functions. In previous research, investigators focused either on the milky spots or the adipocytes as key to attracting metastatic ovarian cancer cells. The results of the current experiments show that "although there are clear strengths to both of these models, neither address the intimate and dynamic interaction among milky spots, surrounding adipocytes, and other components of omental tissues. We propose an alternative, more fully integrated model," says Carrie Rinker-Schaeffer, PhD, a professor in the Departments of Surgery (Section of Urology) and Obstetrics and Gynecology at The University of Chicago.
In the first experiment, researchers investigated whether abdominal fat tissue that contains milky spots is a more attractive target for cancer cells than abdominal fat that does not contain milky spots. This study took advantage of the fact that mice have a second source of milky spot-containing abdominal fat (splenoportal fat) as well as fat that is devoid of milky spots (the gonadal, u
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