Researchers from Rush University Medical Center may have discovered how alcohol transforms regular cancer cells into a more aggressive form of the disease that can spread to other areas of the body.
Researchers added alcohol to colon and breast cancer cells and found that the alcohol activated the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, a process that causes cancer cells to become metastatic.
“Our data is the first to show that alcohol turns on certain signals inside a cell that are involved in this critical transition,” said study lead author Christopher Forsyth, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center.
The researchers also found that the cells treated with alcohol no longer were connected as tightly to the surrounding cells, a sign that they were preparing to spread to other parts of the body.
The study appeared in the October 2009 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.