Lung cancer risk increased by nickel particles, claims study

25 August 2011

Nanoparticles of nickel can activate a cellular pathway leading to cancer in human lung cells, a new study from Brown University in Rhode Island has claimed.

While the harmful effects of nickel particles in the human body were already documented, their influence on the development of the disease was not known.

Offering the potential of improved future cancer diagnosis rates, the paper found that ions released by nickel inside epithelial lung cells trigger a process - HIF-1 alpha - which normally activates genes that support cells in times of low oxygen.

However, the Toxicological Sciences journal study claims the genes can also encourage tumour cell growth.

"We have to learn to be able to design [nanotechnology] more intelligently and, if we recognise the potential hazards, to take adequate precautions," argued Agnes Kane, principal author and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown.

The development of lung cancer is most commonly associated with the dangers smoking poses to people's health. However, a meta-analysis in the British Journal of Cancer in 2005 seemed to illustrate how family history of the disease increases a person's risk of contracting it as well.

Posted by Jeanette Royton

1 Pietruska, Jodie R., et al., "Bioavailability, intracellular mobilization of nickel, and HIF-1α activation in human lung epithelial cells exposed to metallic nickel and nickel oxide nanoparticles". Toxicological Sciences. Tuesday August 9th 2011.

2 Matakidou, A., T. Eisen, and R.S. Houlston, "Systematic review of the relationship between family history and lung cancer risk". British Journal of Cancer, 2005.

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