December 31, 2008
Fresher Blood Cuts Cancer In Animals

Transfusions with fresher blood might improve outcomes of cancer surgery.

“New blood” can revitalize a company or a sports team. Recent research by Tel Aviv University finds that young blood does a body good as well, especially when it comes to fighting cancer.

The TAU researchers, led by Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu from the Department of Psychology’s Neuroimmunology Research Unit, discovered that a transfusion of “young” blood — blood which has been stored for less than 9 days — increased the odds of survival in animals challenged with two types of cancer. This finding, reported in the journal Anesthesiology, may solve an age-old mystery as to why some blood transfusions during cancer-related surgeries may lead to an increased recurrence of cancer and others do not.

“There is anecdotal evidence pointing to the fact that some surgeons really prefer to use younger blood units. They insist on it. Our research shows their reasoning might be sound,” says Prof. Ben-Eliyahu, explaining that the oldest blood in a blood bank usually sits on the shelf anywhere from 40 to 42 days before it expires.

Using an animal model, the researchers conducted tests on rats with leukemia and breast cancer. The odds of surviving the cancer, they found, were only compromised if the transfusion blood had been stored for nine or more days.

This result is not surprising. A group at Wake Forest University discovered that some mice have immune systems that are very effective against cancer and that group later discovered that rare people have extreme anti-cancer immune systems and that immune systems decline in their ability to attack cancer cells as we age. Blood that has not been stored as long probably is more capable for immune response.

I think the Wake Forest work demonstrates that not only should doctors use fresh blood with cancer patients but that they should use blood from younger donors and especially from donors which assays show to have especially effective immune responses against cancer.

The future development of immune system rejuvenation therapies will cut the incidence of cancer. Also, those rare people who have especially anti-cancer immune systems probably have genetic sequences for antibodies or perhaps for other parts of the immune system that make them fight cancer especially well. The eventual discovery of what makes their immune systems more effective will lead us toward the development of gene therapies or cell therapies to allow us to rev up our immune systems to protect against cancer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 December 31 12:15 AM  Biotech Cancer

Ned said at December 31, 2008 7:14 AM:

I think a better understanding of the immune system will be essential to improving our ability to control cancer.

The "fresh blood" stuff has been around for a while. Aging of stored blood is a very complex phenomenon. Some coagulation factors deteriorate rapidly, while others are very stable. Polymorphonuclear leukocytes die off quickly, but lymphocytes last a lot longer. Platelets lose their functionality after refrigeration. Anyway, these studies are all based on mouse models. It's probably time for some randomized double-blind human trials.

Kenneth Stevens said at December 31, 2008 8:50 PM:

We must at once begin a vigorous testing program that includes all healthy young people. No doubt those lucky enough to be hematologically gifted will want to share their good fortune by rolling up their sleeves, or, more likely, by having a combination valve/GPS tracking device inserted in their forearms to allow easy access. All freely and of their own will, of course. What good citizen could bring himself to do otherwise?

But should it happen that, here and there, some antisocial few stubbornly desire to retain their precious bodily fluids for their own narrow benefit rather than aid clearly deserving and needy individuals who have done so very, very much for this great nation, such as Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, then those individuals will through their own selfishness bring upon themselves the risk of an understandable public backlash, even mob violence.

In that event, of course, the Federal government shall have no choice but to quarantine these recalcitrant "extreme immunes" in special high-tech biological containment facilities deep under the Rocky Mountains--all for their own safety, of course. The unusual living conditions there might perhaps take some getting used to, but any inconvenience will be more than made up for by free cable TV, round-the-clock medical care, and all the steak and liver they can eat.

albatross said at January 2, 2009 12:33 PM:

ISTM that a key question here is how the donated blood could contribute to an immune response to cancer cells, but not to healthy cells of the recipient of the blood. I don't think that could be based on NK or CTL cells distinguishing cancerous/noncancerous cells (the host's own cells ought to do better, and the donor's CTL cells might even react against the recipient's healthy cells, right?). Maybe there's some other part of the immune response which is being blocked by the cancer locally, but for which that blocking doesn't work against the new blood?

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