A Scientist looks at cells through a fluorescent microscope at the laboratories at Cancer Research UK Institute on 9 December 2014 in Cambridge, England / Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK

'Our studies suggest that controlling damage induced inflammation after cancer surgery might improve the outcome of patients'

Skin cancer could be made worse following surgery to remove tumours by the inflammation that occurs, new research suggests.

A study of zebrafish showed that cells of the immune system which are important for wound healing, can drive the progression of skin cancer.

Researchers have suggested that therapies to dampen inflammation following surgery could help to improve patient outcomes, as surgery remains the preferred treatment for skin cancer.

Dr Yi Feng, Chancellor’s Fellow, MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, said: "Our studies suggest that controlling damage induced inflammation after cancer surgery might improve the outcome of patients."

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The team used live imaging techniques to watch how cells of the immune system are recruited to heal a wound in zebrafish.

They tagged the cells for tracking in the transparent fish with fluorescence, and saw with high powered microscopes how the neutrophils are quickly diverted from the wound towards nearby cells which are on the cusp of becoming cancerous.

The team also detected high levels of neutrophils in human tissue samples of skin cancers from people whose tumours had open ulcers.

The presence of neutrophils was linked to poor survival of these patients, suggesting that inflammation may also play a part in human skin cancer progression.

Dr Yi Feng said: "An important next step will be to better understand how these immune cells are interacting with cancer cells.

"This will help us to devise therapies to reduce the risk of cancer cells that are left behind after surgery from forming new tumours and spreading."

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