Joel came across the below fascinating article on how nicotine may play a role in the development of at least one form of lung cancer. The study abstract will tell us a bit more but it isn't out yet. As soon as we can locate a copy we'll attach it. It's pretty scary stuff to think that nicotine can turn off a cell's die switch.
the"a" culprit in lung cancer
By Tim Friend, USA TODAY
Posted 1/1/2003 4:07 PM
Nicotine, the well-known addictive component of tobacco, may also be a powerful promoter of lung cancer.
The finding, reported in Thursday's Journal of Clinical Investigation, offers a new way of thinking about how tobacco-related cancers arise and suggests a new approach to treating and preventing lung cancer by designing drugs that block nicotine's effects.
But experts say the research may be a double-edged sword. If nicotine can promote lung cancer, questions must be asked about the long-term safety of nicotine patches, nasal sprays and gum that smokers rely upon to quit.
"If I have a choice between everyone stopping smoking and going on a patch, I would clearly prefer everyone stop and go on the patch," says study leader Phillip A. Dennis of the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Therapeutic Branch. "But the safety of long-term use of nicotine replacement is unknown."
Until now, scientists assumed tar and chemicals in tobacco, which are known lethal carcinogens, were the primary culprits. The traditional view of the development of tobacco-related tumors, including those in the bladder, pancreas and kidneys, is that carcinogens cause genetic changes in cells that build up and ultimately trigger tumor growth.
But the new study suggests nicotine plays a leading role by commandeering a communication system critical for maintaining healthy cells, and that nicotine exposure is setting the stage even before genetic changes occur.
Dennis' team found that nicotine inhibits the body's natural ability to destroy cells that experience genetic damage. Normally, when cells age or become damaged, a program in the DNA is activated that instructs the cell to stop dividing and die. Nicotine overrides that protective mechanism and forces cells to survive.
Using normal lung cells, the team found that nicotine levels routinely acquired by smoking will activate cell survival within minutes of exposure. Theoretically, as long as nicotine is present in the lungs or bloodstream, many of the cells damaged from carcinogens will remain alive, increasing the risk of cancer.
Copyright 2002 USA TODAY