A team of international scientists led by Professor Markus Kleinewietfeld of the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology, VIB, and the University of Hasselt, has proved that a diet rich in salt can help curb the growth of tumors in mice.
The discovery could improve immunotherapies against cancer, VIB stressed in a joint press release on Wednesday with its Inflammation Research Centre, UHasselt and German partners.
Excessive consumption of salt leads to hypertension and cardiovascular disorders. However, it also has an impact on the immune system.
High salt consumption confuses a certain type of immune cells, the myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), which prevent other immune cells from attacking tumours. When exposed to high concentrations of salt, the MDSC fully carry out their task, thus allowing other cells to attack the cancerous ones.
The scientists believe that if MDSCs can be forced to carry out such a function, this opens up prospects for improving treatments.
“Our discovery is extremely interesting and, at the same time, astonishing,” Pr.Kleinewietfeld said. “Future studies will help us better understand the underlying biological mechanisms” of this phenomenon.
“That will enable us to assess the therapeutic potential of our findings within the framework of immunotherapy against cancer,” he added.
High salt consumption is also linked to stomach cancer, so the study’s findings will need to be confirmed and the underlying mechanisms examined, VIB noted.