Fat Feeds Leukemia Cells, According To Researchers At Children's Hospital Los Angeles

SC CTSI-supported study investigates link between adipocytes and leukemia.

April 26, 2013

Note:  Support for this study was provided by the SC CTSI Pilot Funding program, Gabrielle's Angel Foundation, and the NIH/NCI.

In a study reported in the current issue of Cancer Research, a team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles led by Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, reports that obesity substantially impairs the ability of a first-line chemotherapy to kill leukemia cells.

Steven Mittelman, MD, PhD

Not only can obesity cause cancer—this research indicates how it can significantly decrease a child's odds of battling the disease if they get it.

Obesity is known to greatly increase one's risk of dying from cancer. However, researchers at Children's Hospital were the first to show that this effect may also be present in children. Obese children diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) have a 50 percent greater risk of their disease recurring compared with children who are not obese.

"This research really shines a light on how cancer cells avoid chemotherapy," said Brent Polk, director of CHLA’s Saban Research Institute. "As childhood obesity has become a global challenge, our understanding of how to beat cancer in children is advanced by these important findings."

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