Breast cancer is more likely to spread during sleep


Tumor cells appear to circulate more in the blood at night, suggesting that treatment should be targeted to maximize nighttime effects.


June 22, 2022

Circulating breast cancer cells viewed under a microscope


Breast cancer cells spread primarily to other parts of the body at night when people are sleeping, and do not spread continuously throughout the day, as scientists previously thought.

This does not mean that people with cancer should try to avoid sleep to prevent it from spreading, researchers warn. Previous work It suggests that sleep disorders can worsen the prognosis of breast cancer.However, this finding shows that they can be made more effective by considering the optimal time to perform cancer treatment, he says. Nikola Acet In ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

“Most cancer treatments are not designed to target tumor cells at any given time, but are given the general idea that the tumor is there and will always attack the tumor. “He says. “Now we have a good idea of ​​what happens at a different time than before. [treatment] Need to be better. “

Aceto and his colleagues were doing another study of metastatic breast cancer when they detected an unexpected trend. In other words, it has spread to other organs. Participant’s circulating tumor cells (CTCs) were cells that spread from invasive tumors and proliferated primarily at night.

They decided to investigate further 30 women with breast cancer, including 9 with untreated metastatic disease. Scientists collected blood samples at 10 am and 4 am hours before cancer surgery.

Their analysis revealed that 78% of all CTCs were found in nighttime samples in which women were asleep.

The researchers then performed similar blood tests on mice transplanted with four types of breast cancer. They found that 87-99 percent of the CTCs came from samples taken during the sleep of the animal, depending on the type of cancer. In addition, CTCs are clustered, which means they are more likely to form new tumors. The sleeping mouse sample is up to 278 times more than the awake mouse sample.

It was surprising at first, but the findings really make sense, says Aceto. The immune system is heavily regulated by the body’s sleep-wake cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. However, he says, cancer tumors were generally thought not to follow that rhythm.

The new findings correct that misunderstanding, but still fail to answer many questions. “It has a certain rhythmic nature and has the highest peaks during sleep,” says Aceto. “We never know the exact moment during sleep, and whether sleep more or less helps with this.”

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-022-04875-y

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Breast cancer is more likely to spread during sleep

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