New study finds nicotine aids spread of lung cancer to brain

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In a recently published US study researchers have found that nicotine promotes the spread of lung cancer cells into the brain where they can form metastatic tumours.

 Smokers are far more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers and around 40% of lung cancer patients also develop brain metastasis (mets), but this new research has found this number is dramatically higher among smokers.

 The researchers discovered that nicotine enhanced brain metastasis by crossing the blood-brain barrier to change the microglia - a type of immune cell in the brain - from being protective to supporting tumour growth.

 The team then looked for drugs that might reverse the effects of nicotine and identified parthenolide, which may provide a new approach to fight brain metastasis, particularly for patients who have smoked or still smoke.

 Currently, the only treatment for brain mets is radiation therapy as traditional chemotherapy can't cross the blood-brain barrier, but parthenolide can, and so holds promise as a treatment or possibly even a way to prevent brain metastasis.

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