Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Fried Fat

Radiation therapy damaging fatty tissue in childhood underlies cardiovascular disease later in life

29 November 2021

Fried Fat

If a kid with cancer survives, their health worries are sadly not over. Later in life, they're at increased risk of developing not only other cancers, but also cardiovascular conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. But why might childhood cancer affect cardiovascular health in adulthood? Recent research suggests the radiation used to zap the cancer might damage the patient’s fatty tissues, screwing up its metabolic functions. Indeed, patients who received radiotherapy as kids often grow up with inflamed and dysfunctional fat tissue akin to that of people with obesity or cardiometabolic disease. The fatty tissue pictured, for example, is infiltrated with inflammatory macrophages (purple). While a direct link between radiotherapy and metabolic disorders has yet to be established, the results suggest that protecting a child’s fatty tissues while their tumours are blasted with radiation may reduce the chance of damage and thus of future cardiovascular problems.

Written by Ruth Williams

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