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Nicotine Aids in the Spread of Lung Cancer to the Brain

A new study has confirmed that nicotine helps lung cancer to spread to the brain.

Nicotine is not carcinogenic but is mainly responsible for the addictive nature of cigarettes. It is used in a lot of products like nicotine patches, which help people quit smoking.

According to the new study, nicotine is very harmful, especially for lung cancer patients. About 40% of people with lung cancer will develop metastasis when their cancerous cells progress to other organs in the body. Out of all deaths from lung cancer, 90% of them are attributed to metastases, with metastatic brain cancer being among those registering the highest numbers.

When examining the participants of the study, the researchers noticed that brain cancer was the most common cancer among smokers. Since nicotine can cross the blood-brain barrier, the team hypothesized that nicotine was somehow involved in promoting metastatic disease.

Further analysis discovered that nicotine binds onto receptors found on the surface of immune cells in the brain known as microglia. When this happens, the microglia switches from their M1 form (tumor destroying function) to an alternate form – M2 – which inhibits immune responses, supporting the growth of the tumors.

While examining the brain tumors, the team found high numbers of M2 microglial cells and few M1 microglia. This evidence led to the conclusion that nicotine helps lung cancer to spread to the brain due to its effect on microglial cells.

The scientists also identified parthenolide, a compound that prevents microglia from morphing into their M2 form. This compound could help reduce the risk of brain metastasis.

When treated with parthenolide, the effects of nicotine could be counteracted, and brain tumors will stop developing.

Parthenolide is found naturally in a herb known as feverfew. The compound is safe and can be effectively used to protect smokers from brain metastasis.

From the findings, it is evident that parthenolide can cross the blood-brain barrier and help prevent brain metastasis for lung cancer patients.

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