A study shows that breast cancer spreads more at night

A study shows that breast cancer spreads more at night

A team of researchers from ETH Zurich, Switzerland, found that breast cancer cells spread most effectively to other parts of the body during the night, while the patient sleeps. A study, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday (22/6), suggests that treatments will work best when applied later in the day.

The study looked at 30 women with breast cancer, nine of whom had metastatic cancer and had not undergone any treatment. Blood samples were taken at 4 and 10 a.m. The results showed that 78% of circulating tumor cells (CTC) were found in the dawn sample.

The researchers performed similar tests on mice transplanted with different types of breast cancer and found that, depending on the tumor, between 87% and 99% of CTCs were found overnight. These cells also shrank (which increases the chances of forming a new tumor) about 278 times more in the dawn sample.

“Most cancer treatments are not designed to attack a tumor cell at a specific time. It is believed that they take into account that the tumor is there and that it should be hit at any moment. We now understand better and know that treatment can be improved, ”explains scientist Nicola Aceto, one of the study’s authors, in an interview with New Scientist.

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He states that the results make sense: while the immune system respects the circadian cycle, reducing its action while the person is sleeping, the same does not happen with cancer, which reproduces at a different pace.

Scientists say the finding raises several more questions, including whether there is a specific time in sleep when tumor cells develop most easily, or whether patients should sleep more or less to optimize treatment.

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