A study published this Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature reveals that breast cancer metastases spread faster when a patient is asleep. The discovery will help change the way this type of tumor is diagnosed and treated, one of the most common, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Researchers warn that The findings of this study should not lead patients to reduce sleep time to prevent the spread of cancer, especially since previous research has shown that poor sleep quality worsens the prognosis of the disease.
Nicola Aceto, professor of molecular oncology and one of those responsible for the study conducted by the Federal Polytechnic School (ETH) in Zurich, where the research was conducted, emphasizes that this new study is relevant in that it reveals that there are times when therapies will be more effective.
Until now, the scientific community believed that breast tumors continuously release metastatic cells, but this research has shown that cancer cells that circulate and later form metastases occur mainly in the sleep phase.
This new study led to a “surprising conclusion”: circulating cancer cells that later metastasize mostly form during the sleep phase. Hormones regulated by circadian rhythms control metastases.
Metastases occur when circulating cancer cells separate from the original tumor, travel through the body through blood vessels and form new tumors in other organs. According to the authors of the study, cancer research has so far not paid much attention to this issue when tumors release metastatic cells.
During the study, which included 30 cancer patients, the researchers found that the tumor produces circulating malignant cells when the body is asleep.
Cells that leave the tumor overnight also divide faster and therefore have a higher potential for metastasis than cells that leave the tumor during the day.
“Our research shows that the release of circulating cancer cells from the original tumor is controlled by hormones such as melatonin, which determine our day and night rhythm.”said Zoe Diamantopoulou, another author of the study.
Moreover, the study shows that the time at which tumor or blood samples are taken for diagnosis can influence the oncologist’s conclusions.
According to the Swiss Research Center, it was an accidental discovery that put investigators on the right track for the first time. The scientists were surprised to find that samples taken at different times of the day had very different levels of cancer cells.
“In our opinion, these results may indicate the need for health professionals to systematically record the time at which biopsies are performed“, Says Aceto, emphasizing:” It can help make the data really comparable. “
The next step will be to discover how these findings can be incorporated into existing cancer treatments to optimize therapy.
Aceto wants to investigate whether different types of cancer behave similarly to breast cancer and whether existing therapies could be more successful if patients are treated at different times.
According to the World Health Organization, there are about 2.3 million new cases of breast cancer in the world every year.
- Text: SIC Notícias, POSTAL’s partner television, with Luce