It is common knowledge that obesity compromises your health in numerous ways. From causing everyday problems, like being tired and sluggish, to increasing the risk of serious medical issues, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes, carrying excess body weight in the form of fat should be avoided.

New research has shown, however, that fat can even interfere with medical treatments such as chemotherapy, reducing the chance of a cancer patient recovering from the disease. This recent discovery increases the need for people to reduce their body weight to a healthy level as a preemptive strategy in case they needed to seek medical treatment for cancer in the future.

Fat Cells Affect Some Chemotherapy Treatment

Obesity has been identified as a link between more negative outcomes for chemotherapy patients seeking treatment for a range of cancers, including breast and colon cancer. A new study has discovered that fat cells located in what is called a tumor microenvironment (TME), which includes the immediate area surrounding a tumor within the body, can interfere with some types of chemo treatments. The fat in the area around the tumor can absorb and metabolize some chemotherapy drugs, stopping them from reaching and destroying cancer cells.

The results of the research demonstrated that adipocytes, or fat cells, stopped the accumulation of daunorubicin, a frequently used chemotherapy drug for leukemia, in all cells in the TME. The fat cells then metabolized the daunorubicin, turning it into a largely inactive compound called daunorubicinol, that is less effective fighting leukemia. This resulted in all cells in the TME, including healthy and tumorous cells, surviving and proliferating.

In the paper entitled “Adipocytes Sequester and Metabolize the Chemotherapeutic Daunorubicin,” published in Molecular Cancer Research, researchers describe how “adipocyte-mediated daunorubicin metabolism reduces active drug concentration in the TME. These results could be clinically important for adipocyte-rich cancer microenvironments such as omentum, breast, and marrow.”

The researchers acknowledge that this study was the first demonstration that adipocytes can inactivate therapeutic drugs and can have implications outside of chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients. It is not currently known in what other ways fat cells can affect chemotherapy treatment effectiveness and requires further research.