Heavy Weight Cancer Research

By Riva Preil

Obesity has been associated with various health risks, including cardiovascular disease.  Furthermore, recent research has linked obesity with increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

A study which appeared online in the journal Cell Metabolism (April 1) performed by Dr. Paul Wade and Dr. Thomas Eling at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) explored the connection between obesity and colorectal cancer.  Their work was based on findings from previous rodent research that has shown that the NAG-1 gene is correlated with decreased risk of colorectal cancer.

In the current study, Wade and Eling worked with two groups of mice.  One group of mice contained the NAG-1 gene and the other group did not.  Both groups of mice were fed high fat diets- 60% of calories consumed were obtained through lard.

Two interesting finding emerged from the research:

  • The mice with the NAG-1 gene did not gain weight, whereas the NAG-1 deficient mice gained weight
  • According to Ellis, “The obese mice exhibited molecular signals in their gut that led to the progression of cancer, but the NAG-1 mice didn’t have those same indicators.”

Wade proposed that the reason behind the second difference is that fat cells in the large intestine, or colon, may trigger tumor growth.  Whatever the reason, further research is warranted to gain more knowledge about this important connection.  Better understanding of the chemical pathways can allow for better treatment and development of targeted medications to interrupt the faulty mechanism.

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