The wound healing process after breast cancer surgery may cause the cancer to spread, a new study published Wednesday suggests.
The study in Science Translational Medicine found that as the immune system works to heal the scar from surgery, it is diverted away from stopping the growth and multiplication of cancer cells that have wandered from the tumor site.
The study authors suggested this may be why cancers commonly spread and recur in the first 18 months after surgery.
“It’s not the actual surgery, but instead, it’s the post-surgical wound response,” senior author and MIT biologist Robert Weinberg said, USA Today reported. “It is provoking already disseminated cells to begin to grow into clinically detectable metastases.”
The study was done on mice, but some correlation has already been seen in the small-scale human studies done so far.
It also found that an anti-inflammatory drug like ketorolac could prevent the spread and growth of the cells if given around the time of the surgery, which supports other limited studies that have shown decreased recurrence with ketolorac, USA Today reported.
Doctors have previously been reluctant to give ketolorac at the time of surgery because of some bleeding risk, but that risk is minor and may be overshadowed by the benefits of an anti-inflammatory, which in one human study made cancer recurrence five times less likely, USA Today reported.
Trials may begin soon in Nigeria to test benefits of ketorolac during surgery, USA Today reported. Aspirin may also provide benefits, including reduced recurrence because of its anti-inflammatory effect.
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