Tumors are growths in your body that can either have no impact on our health or be cancerous, spreading and infecting as much of the body as it can. It is this spread (metastasis) that can lead to further complication of other organs, causing distal organ system complications not originally affected by the tumor.
New research into the growth of tumors has led investigators to discover the use of a natural compound, albeit modified, that can help disrupt the formation of blood vessels that fuel growth tumors.
The specific tumor used in this study was a neuroblastoma—a childhood tumor that most frequently affects the adrenal glands, but can also develop in the neck, chest, abdomen, or spine.
“We joined catechin with a sugar called dextran. We found this dextran-catechin complex is much more stable in the body and that it slows tumor growth by affecting copper levels – but we didn’t know precisely how,” said lead author Dr. Orazio Vittorio of Children’s Cancer Institute.
Copper is needed by cells that line blood vessels, with the dextran-catechin disrupting copper levels in cells in several ways. Specifically, this new compound inhibits copper transport proteins in the cells. This prevents them from joining together to form a network of vessels. This is how blood supply to tumors can be restricted,
preventing their ability to grow.
Copper helps to switch on genes that promote endothelial cell growth and form blood vessels through a process called angiogenesis.
The problem with increased blood vessel development from tumors is that they often steal resources from the body in the form of oxygen and nutrients, leading to cancer symptoms.
The researchers are hopeful that this study will pave the way for less toxic treatments for neuroblastoma.
Mice studies and human endothelial cell testing using dextran-catechin found that normally branching networks of blood vessels were inhibited. Mice with neuroblastoma tumors were also seen to have significantly fewer blood vessels supplying their tumors compared to control models treated with normal saline.
“This is exciting because it’s a new target for the childhood cancer neuroblastoma that appears safe and has minimal side effects,” said Dr. Vittorio.