Nav: Home

E-cigarette smoke caused lung cancer in mice

October 07, 2019

Exposure to electronic-cigarette (E-cig) smoke caused mice to develop lung cancer, a new study finds.

Published online October 7 in Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study found that 9 of 40 mice (22.5 percent) exposed to E-cig smoke with nicotine for 54 weeks developed lung adenocarcinomas. None of the 20 mice from the study exposed to the same E-cig smoke without nicotine developed cancer.

Led by Moon-shong Tang, PhD, of NYU School of Medicine, the study also found that 23 of 40 mice (57.5 percent) exposed to E-cig smoke developed bladder hyperplasia, genetic changes that make cells more likely to multiply, and a step toward abnormal tissue growth seen in cancer.

Only one of the 17 mice exposed to the zero-nicotine E-cig smoke developed hyperplasia.

Tang acknowledges the study's limitations, including that it was conducted in a relatively small number of mice susceptible to developing cancer over their lifetime (one-year study period designed to offset age-related cancer).

The study mice also did not inhale smoke like a human would, but, instead, were surrounded by it (whole-body exposure).

"Tobacco smoke is among the most dangerous environmental agents to which humans are routinely exposed, but the potential of E-cig smoke as a threat to human health is not yet fully understood," says Tang, a professor in the Departments of Environmental Medicine, Medicine, and Pathology. "Our study results in mice were not meant to be compared to human disease, but instead argue that E-cig smoke must be more thoroughly studied before it is deemed safe or marketed that way."

Inside Cells

The question of whether nicotine itself, separate from tobacco smoke, causes cancer is controversial because of conflicting study results over time that used oft-criticized methods. Almost all researchers agree, however, that chemicals added during the curing of tobacco - nitrate and nitrite - can cause a reaction called nitrosation (the addition of a particle called a nitrosonium ion), the authors say.

This is known to convert nicotine into nitrosamines such as NNN (N-nitrosonoricotine) and NNK (nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone), proven carcinogens in mice and humans.

Conventional thinking, says Tang, has been that smoke from cured tobacco deposits nitrosamines into a smoker's organs and blood, with nitrosamine blood tests the best measure of their potential to cause cancer.

Such tests in a 2017 study found that levels of a compound related to NNK, called NNAL, were 95 percent lower in E-cig smokers than in tobacco smokers, leading some experts to conclude that a switch to E-cigs might save millions of lives. Partly as a result of such public messaging, 3.6 million junior high and high school students having embraced E-cigs, say the authors.

Against this backdrop, the new study finds that mammalian cells contain their own nitrosonium ions, which directly react with nicotine to form nitrosamines, including NNK. Many studies have also shown that human and mouse cells also have ample supplies of cytochrome p450, which further converts NNN and NNK into compounds (e.g. formaldehyde and CH3N=NOH) that can react with DNA to form damaging adducts (e.g. gamma-OH-PdG and O6-methyl-dG), the researchers say.

Tang's team had shown in a February 2018 PNAS article that E-cig smoke induces DNA damage in the mouse lung and bladder, and that nitrosation in cultured human lung and bladder cells converts nicotine into derivatives that increase DNA code changes (mutations) with the potential to transform normal cells into cancer cells. Specifically, the earlier study found that nicotine is transformed into nitrosamines, then into DNA damaging agents, which ultimately form DNA adducts.

The current study results confirm that nicotine from E-cig smoke can cause cancer in the lungs, and precancerous growth in the bladders, of mice. Furthermore, the results argue that nicotine, once inside cells, is converted into nitrosamines that do not leave cells and, therefore, could never be captured by tests that measure nitrosamine levels outside of cells (e.g. blood tests), says Tang.

"Our results support the argument that the nicotine-derived DNA adducts are likely the main causes for carcinogenesis in mice exposed to E-cig smoke," says study author Herbert Lepor, MD, the Martin Spatz Chair of Urology at NYU Langone Health. "Our next step in this line of work will be to expand the number of mice studied, to shorten and prolong E-cigarette exposure time, and to further investigate the genetic changes caused by E-cigarette smoke."
-end-
Along with Tang and Lepor, study authors were Xue-Ru Wu, Hyun-Wook Lee, Yong Xia, Fang-Ming Deng, Andre Moreira, Lung-Chi Chen, and William Huang in the departments of Environmental Medicine, Medicine, Pathology and Urology at NYU School of Medicine.

The study was funded by National Institutes of Health grants R01CA190678, 1P01CA165980, P30CA16087 and ES00260.

NYU Langone Health / NYU School of Medicine

Related Cancer Articles:

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.