Many of the cells in our bodies contain packets of substances that they release when given a chemical command. A good example is the release of histamines from cells in response to chemical mediators in an allergic reaction. The histamines are released from the affected cells to the surrounding tissues and into the blood stream where they themselves act as mediators or activators of other processes seen in the allergic-type reaction such as red skin, watery eyes, swelling, etc. Many cells in our bodies can be induced to produce other chemicals and hold them in “packages” in the cell where they may be released in specific circumstances when the genetic machinery of the cells (DNA) are induced or stimulated to do so.

This is a process which not only occurs in regular life processes but also occurs in many types of cancer. This is part of what makes some cancers more aggressive. Put simply, cancer can be due to a malfunctioning of the tissue cells causing them to reproduce abnormally. Along with this the cells may be able to produce “packages” of chemicals such as enzymes which tend to dissolve tissue and tissue barriers, allowing the spread of the cancer from one tissue space to another. When the spread goes into the lymphatic system or blood vessel system it more easily passes to other areas of the body. If those new areas are susceptible the cancer can start growing there (metastasis).

As researchers discover and learn more and more about these processes we get closer to finding ways to treat, counter, and even cure diseases such as cancer. Research is the key. We regularly support research activities through our organizations and other donations. Small things, like supporting a cancer run or donating to someone’s care, help to keep the fight going.


Reference: J Oral Maxillofac Surg 65:1725-1733, 2007.