Although the nicotine molecule is not carcinogenic, it is believed to promote the development of brain metastases in patients with lung cancer.
With over 154,050 deaths per year, lung cancer is the most deadly cancer: only 18.6% of patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis. A new study by researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine shows the involvement of nicotine in the development of brain metastases in lung cancer patients.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
There are two types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which is closely related to smoking and accounts for 15% of all lung cancer cases, and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for more than 80% of cases and is divided into three categories (adenocarcinomas, which currently account for 60% of NSCLC cases, squamous cell carcinomas, which account for 30% of cases, and large cell carcinomas, which are less common).
When a lung cancer NSCLC is diagnosed, it is recommended to look for possible brain metastases. However, this “side effect” has previously been misunderstood. Today, researchers believe that nicotine, a non-cancerous chemical found in tobacco, may actually promote the spread of cancer cells from the lungs to the brain.
The devastating effect of nicotine
One result after examining 281 patients with this type of lung cancer: smokers had a significantly higher incidence of brain cancer. Nicotine is believed to promote brain metastases by crossing the blood-brain barrier to disrupt the microglia, a population of glial cells that form the most important active immune defense in the central nervous system.
To reverse these devastating effects of nicotine, researchers have turned to parthenolide, a substance produced by Feverfew in its flowers potentially capable of blocking nicotine-induced brain metastases in mice. If further studies are conducted with the participation of oncologists, this discovery may represent a serious advance in the treatment of NSCLC lung cancer, particularly in improving prognosis.