One of the greatest threats posed by an aggressive cancer like malignant mesothelioma is its insidious spread to faraway parts of the body. Known as metastasis, the process defeats the effects of surgery and radiation therapy, leaving physicians playing a desperate game of whack-a-mole with deadly cells. In 2018 a group of researchers reported the discovery of fluid-filled spaces that they called the interstitium, and last month they published a related study suggesting that it is through these spaces that cancer cells travel across organs.
NYU Scientists Suggest Diseases Like Mesothelioma Spread through Fluid-Filled Spaces
The study published in the journal Communications Biology focuses on the route by which cancer cells travel rather than on any particular type of cancer cell, but will be of significant interest to mesothelioma researchers. Though malignant mesothelioma is associated with tumors that form in the pleural cavity or (less frequently) the peritoneal or pericardial cavity, its cells do travel to faraway parts of the body, contributing to patients’ weakening and eventual death.
The group was led by Neil Theise, a liver pathologist at New York University Grossman School of Medicine. Where they had previously determined that fluid-filled spaces they called the interstitium existed between cells and crossed organs, their more recent study used tattoo ink and colloidal silver as pigment, tracing the way it used the interstitial to travel through layers of tissue. They concluded that the interstitium could serve as a pathway for cancer to travel through the body in the same way that the vascular and lymphatic systems do. The researchers went beyond tracking the travels of dyes and included tracking various types of tumor cells.
Theory Is Attracting Attention Among Cancer Researchers
While Dr. Theise’s previous work had been the subject of much criticism, this recent discovery is garnering significant positive attention. According to David Tuveson, a cancer researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the current president of the American Association for Cancer Research, “It’s making a rather bold, but I’d say substantiated, proposal that this interstitial network may play a larger role in distributing things throughout the body,” he says. Tuveson also suggested that the interstitium might play a role in how medications get distributed.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, every bit of research that adds to scientific knowledge is a sign of hope. For information on the many resources available to you, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.