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Dangerous distant metastases are often “daughters” of cancerous growths
Researchers have found that distant metastases are often “daughters” of the original tumors. So far, science had assumed that they primarily arise from daughter tumors in the lymph nodes. The new findings could explain why removing the lymph nodes often does not extend life expectancy.
Improvement in the treatment of cancer patients
According to a new study, dangerous distant metastases in the lungs or liver are mostly daughters of the original tumors. So far, it was assumed that they predominantly arise from daughter tumors in the lymph nodes. The new findings could lead to "improvements in the clinical treatment of lymph node metastases," study leaders Kamila Naxerova of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston (USA) said in a statement.
Operative removal only sometimes prevents distant metastases
"If cancer has metastasized, many affected patients can expect their disease to be stopped, but complete cure is often no longer possible," write the experts from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) on the "Cancer Information Service" portal.
If only adjacent lymph nodes are affected, they can be surgically removed under certain circumstances. According to the DKFZ, this also applies to individual distant metastases, depending on the situation.
However, surgical removal only sometimes prevents distant metastases. In the current study published in the scientific journal Science, the researchers have now found out why this is so.
Common hypothesis invalidated
Together with colleagues from other research institutions, the MGH scientists have investigated the relationships between colorectal cancer tumors (primary tumors), metastases in the lymph nodes and distant metastases in other body organs by means of genetic sequencing and family tree analysis.
The study also included the Austrians Johannes Reiter and Martin Nowak, both of whom conduct research in the field of biomathematics at Harvard University in Cambridge (USA).
As Reiter explained to the APA news agency, the most common hypothesis among doctors so far was that a primary tumor first forms lymphogenic metastases and later they send out distant metastases.
For this reason, not only the primary tumor but also nearby lymph nodes were often surgically removed in cancer patients.
"However, several studies have shown that such interventions do not significantly extend life expectancy," he said.
Distant metastases mostly originate from the original tumor
The study has now shown why this is so. According to the information, distant metastases in two thirds of the patients did not originate from lymph node tumors, but directly from the original tumor.
"This implies that surgical removal of the lymph nodes cannot prevent distant metastases," the researchers conclude.
They found that the lymph node and distant metastases are only in one line in one third of the cases.
This means that the lymph node family here is the parent of distant metastases. It is said that the removal of the lymph nodes could only prolong life in such cases. (ad)