Diabetics have been shown to have higher rates of cancer metastasis than non-diabetics. This 2019 study investigates the promotion of tumor cell mobility by collagen matrix glycation as a possible mechanism for the increase.
The high levels of blood glucose chronically present in diabetic patients accelerate glycation — i.e., the binding of sugar molecules to other molecules in the body. As collagen, a major component of the extracellular matrix, becomes glycated, it stiffens and forms into a more porous matrix. One mechanism by which tumor cells move (and so may metastasize from one area to another) is by “pulling” themselves along this collagen matrix.
In this study, the researchers placed single triple-negative breast cancer cells, or cell spheroids, in an artificial matrix comprised of varying concentrations of collagen that had or had not been glycated prior to testing. They found that the mobility of both tumor cells and tumor spheroids was higher in glycated than unglycated collagen, especially when collagen concentrations were highest. This suggests increased collagen glycation may be one mechanism by which tumor cells become more mobile, and so more likely to metastasize, in diabetic patients.