A high intake of salt can trigger antitumor immune reactions.
More and more studies have been pointing to the pro-inflammatory effects of excessive salt intake.
However, in the case of cancer, inducing a pro-inflammatory state may be beneficial in the fight against tumors. Recently, immunotherapy has emerged as one of the most promising avenues for treating cancer.
So, in this context, a team of researchers set out to examine the effects of a high-salt intake on tumor growth in cell cultures and two independent mouse models.
Professor Markus Kleinewietfeld — who is the head of the VIB-UHasselt lab, that is, a collaboration between VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) and the University of Hasselt in Belgium — led the research team.
How a high-salt intake inhibits tumors
The researchers conducted a cell-culture experiment where they replicated a high-salt environment.
They found that excessive salt inhibited the function of a type of immune cell scientists call myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) both in mice cells and in human MDSCs taken from cancer patients.
A high-salt environment stopped MDSCs from inhibiting other immune cells almost completely. Previous studies, explain the researchers, have suggested that MDSCs are key in preventing the immune system from effectively attacking tumors.