Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS on 15 March, 2021

Israeli Researchers Uncover Biological Pathway Between Heart Disease and Cancer

Public By Pesach Benson • 19 March, 2024

Jerusalem, 19 March, 2024 (TPS) -- Israeli researchers have discovered a direct biological pathway linking heart disease to an increased risk of cancer, offering a promising avenue for reducing cancer risk among heart disease patients.

The study, by researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, found that the connection between heart disease and cancer lies in the secretion of extracellular bubbles from the heart following a heart attack.

Contrary to previous assumptions attributing this elevated risk to factors such as smoking, diabetes, and obesity, the study, recently published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Circulation, found that extracellular bubbles secreted by the heart following a heart attack raise the risk of cancer.

“We showed for the first time that the diseased heart secretes bubbles that contain thousands of different growth factors. These bubbles do not encourage the growth of any tumor, but they certainly affect the immune system and may cause any tumor in the body to benefit from them,” said lead researcher Professor Yonatan Lior, who works at both TAU and Sheba.

The bubbles, called extracellular vesicles (sEVs) released from a diseased heart, are intended to aid in the healing process of cardiac tissue. But the researchers discovered that these bubbles inadvertently travel through the bloodstream, and promote the growth of cancer cells throughout the body. These bubbles, laden with growth factors and nucleic acid molecules, not only facilitate cell division but also influence immune responses conducive to cancer growth.

The researchers tested their hypothesis on animal models with heart disease. By inhibiting the formation of extracellular bubbles, the researchers observed a significant reduction in cancer risk. But the intervention led to undesirable side effects, prompting the team to explore alternative strategies.

By administering spironolactone, a well-established drug for heart failure treatment, the researchers managed to mitigate the secretion of extracellular bubbles from the heart, resulting in a notable slowdown in the growth of cancerous tumors. The findings offer a promising avenue for reducing cancer risk among heart disease patients.

Further study is needed, the researchers stressed. But they noted that identifying biomarkers among heart patients may help doctors identify heart disease patients with higher risks for cancer.