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[2020/01/06] Associate Professor Lee Collaborates with the US's NIH and Discovers Twelve Metals that are Significantly Related to Gallbladder Cancer

National Yang-Ming University Institute of Clinical Medicine Teacher Lee (left) and research paper first author Dr. Huang

 

The gallbladder is an important digestive organ within the human body. About one thousand people in Taiwan develop gallbladder cancer every year; however, little research has been carried out on this topic in Taiwan. Associate Professor Lee of National Yang-Ming University's Institute of Clinical Medicine measured various common metals found in human serum and found that six metals were related to the presence of gallstones and twelve metals were related to gallbladder cancer. The lack of research in this area meant that it was possible to publish this research in Hepatology, an important journal targeting liver disease, recently.

 

In addition to various common factors, such as age, gender, obesity, and genetics, the amount of metal we are exposed to in our daily lives also increases the risk of cancer. Many metals are present in the natural environment and our body also requires certain trace amounts of metal elements to maintain its normal functions. However, if exposure is too high, this can lead to disease and even cancer.

 

Associate Professor Lee cooperated with United States' National Institute of Health (NIH) during this research. NIH provided serum from 269 patients diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. The serum was then analyzed in Taiwan using coupled plasma mass spectrometry. A total of eighteen metals were able to be detected in the serum. It was found that the levels of twelve metals were significantly associated with gallbladder cancer; these were arsenic, cadmium, chromium, vanadium, sulfur, copper, iron, magnesium, molybdenum, selenium, boron, and lithium. In addition, the metals that were significantly associated with the presence of gallstones were determined to be arsenic, calcium molybdenum, phosphorus, boron, and lithium.

 

Different metal elements and their association with gallstone and gallbladder cancer

 

It is worth noting that, in this study, an increased in blood metal concentration did not necessarily correlate with either the presence of gallstones or gallbladder cancer. Specifically, a higher concentration of six of the above metals was found to be associated with a lower risk of gallstones. By way of contrast, increased concentrations of cadmium, chromium, copper, molybdenum and vanadium were found to be correlated with a higher risk of gallbladder cancer., the increased risks ranging from 1.8 to 7.28 times

 

In the past, due to technological limitations, only the concentration of one or two different metals could be measured in blood. Newer technology has meant that it is now possible during this research to measure multiple heavy metals, as well as various trace metals. In summary, most heavy metals are risk factors for gallbladder cancer, and most trace metals are negatively correlated with gallbladder cancer.

 

Associate Professor Lee remarked, “the symptoms of gallbladder cancer are not obvious, and its treatment is mostly limited to chemotherapy and surgery. The survival time after gallbladder cancer is usually less than six months. This study provides relevant cross-sectional evidence on the natural course of gallbladder cancer; however, longitudinal studies are still needed to assess the timeline of metal exposure and its relationship with gallbladder disease, which will then allow more detailed studies of the pathology of this disease.

 

 

Associate Professor Lee’s team and the collaboration researchers from the United States' National Institute of Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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