Dr. Ajit Varki and a team of UCSD investigators have found that Neu5Gc, a sugar molecule not naturally produced by humans but found in red meat products, is also present in tumor tissue.
Neu5Gc may cause low-grade, chronic inflammation by accumulating in tissue after meat products are eaten and provoking the body to mount an ongoing immune defense against it.
Chronic inflammation is known to contribute to cancer risk.
The finding extends Dr. Varki’s earlier work exploring Neu5Gc (N-glycolylneuraminic acid), the immune system, and inflammation.
The study report is in publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS):
Hedlund M, Padler-Karavani V, Varki NM, Varki A. Evidence for a human-specific mechanism for diet and antibody-mediated inflammation in carcinoma progression. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Nov 18. [Epub ahead of print] Abstract | Read the report (full text)