Air pollution cancer breakthrough rewrites how to think about cancer activation

Researchers say they have cracked how air pollution leads to cancer, in a discovery that completely transforms our understanding of how tumours arise.

The team at the Francis Crick Institute in London showed that rather than causing damage, air pollution was waking up old damaged cells.

One of the world’s leading experts, Prof Charles Swanton, said the breakthrough marked a “new era”.

And it may now be possible to develop drugs that stop cancers forming.

The findings could explain how hundreds of cancer-causing substances act on the body.

The classical view of cancer starts with a healthy cell. It acquires more and more mutations in its genetic code, or DNA, until it reaches a tipping point. Then it becomes a cancer and grows uncontrollably.

[…]

  • around one in every 600,000 cells in the lungs of a 50-year-old already contains potentially cancerous mutations
  • These are acquired as we age but appear completely healthy until they are activated by the chemical alarm and become cancerous

Crucially, the researchers were able to stop cancers forming in mice exposed to air pollution by using a drug that blocks the alarm signal.

The results are a double breakthrough, both for understanding the impact of air pollution and the fundamentals of how we get cancer.

[…]

Source: Air pollution cancer breakthrough will rewrite the rules – BBC News

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