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Fat-Derived Stem Cells Can Stimulate Breast Cancer

Writing in two articles in Tissue Engineering, Dr. Vera Donnenberg and colleagues at the University of Pittsburg present evidence showing that adult stem cells derived from fat are able to substantially stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells.

Researchers isolated stem cells from fat discarded during tummy tucks and then mixed them with human breast cancer cells in the laboratory. Within two weeks, the growth of tumor cells was noted to be greatly increased.

fat adult stem cells

When a mixture of fat-derived stem cells and active tumor cells were injected beneath the skin of mice, the combination led to dramatic growth of tumor.

The authors recommended that post-mastectomy breast reconstruction after cancer removal using fat-derived stem cells be delayed until there was evidence of no active cancer.

APSG Comment: Cosmetic breast enlargement usually entails placement of a synthetic implant, although volume enhancement may also be accomplished by injecting a patient's own fat obtained by liposuction from the abdomen, hip, or thigh. Unfortunately, injected fat is notorious for unpredictable and often rapid disappearance. Researchers have suggested that enriching the fat to be injected with adipose-derived regenerative stem cells may cause more rapid vascularization and stabilization of the graft, although clinical evidence to support this claim is preliminary at best.

Injecting stem cell-enriched liposuctioned fat in lieu of placing a synthetic breast implant has become a hot topic among plastic surgeons and is beginning to see heavy marketing, especially in East Asia. While such operations are still uncommon, patient interest has been piqued.

But here's a question that may cause pause. What happens to a healthy young women undergoing elective cosmetic breast enlargement by autologous fat transplantation enriched with stem cells who just happens to harbor early or undetected breast cancer?

One has to wonder about the risks of tumor dissemination and stimulation in such cases where literally thousands of deep needle injections to deposit fat enriched with stem cells are being made throughout the breast.

According to the researchers, "Available evidence from case reports, cell lines, and clinical isolates favors the interpretation that regenerating tissue promotes the growth of active, high-grade tumor."

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Stem cells, autologous fat augmentation, and breast cancer