Lung cancer metastasis | Respiratory system diseases | NCLEX-RN | Khan Academy

Lung cancer metastasis | Respiratory system diseases | NCLEX-RN | Khan Academy

October 29, 2019 5 By William Morgan


Voiceover: When I think
about lung cancer spreading
throughout the body in a
process called metastasis,
I think about a lot of
people inside of a house.
You can imagine, with this
many people in a small space,
it’s probably getting a
little cramped, and resources
like food in the house,
may become strained.
Or maybe because of some other reason,
like they just can,
people are going to start
to leave this home, and they’re
going to go out and find
new homes to inhabit, settle
down, and continue to multiply.
In order to do this, they would
probably have to use things like,
local streets and highways to leave
their original location and spread out.
So I want you to keep
this in mind when I say
that cancer cells act similarly.
Where cells might primarily
live in the lungs,
for example at first, but
then spread to other locations
in the body, like the
brain, the bones, or liver.
But in cancer, this
spreading out, is given a
fancy name, and it’s called metastasis.
So if humans use roads to
spread out, cancer cells
use tubes called
vasculature, that are found
throughout the body, to travel around.
So come on, let’s look at this further.
I’ve drawn a capillary
bed, and since capillaries
are found in tissues all over the body,
I’m going to draw these
hash tags in to remind you
that capillaries aren’t
just floating around
in space, they’re imbedded
in tissues, surrounded
by things like collagen,
and muscle and nerves,
and cells and proteins.
So blood from the heart,
is traveling through
this big tube, an artery.
Think of this as a
highway, and the blood is
going to travel into these capillary beds,
that I think of as local
streets because they’re
smaller than the highways and the blood
isn’t going to flow as
quickly within them.
But the blood will
eventually connect back to
another highway on the
other side, called a vein,
and return to the heart.
But there’s one other tube in all this,
that I always feel like
doesn’t get the attention
it deserves, so I’m going to highlight the
awesomeness of this vessel now.
It’s the lymphatic
vessel, and these vessels
get very little thanks
for all that they do.
They do the significant job
of collecting immune cells,
and approaching rich fluids
that have escaped out into
the tissue from the veins and arteries and
funnels it all back into the veins.
Well, I’m wondering if you can see what
might happen if there’s
lots of cancer cells growing
in the tissue here, and
if you can’t, remember
back to the example of the people living
in the first house.
They left for a variety
of reasons which aren’t well understood
or known. In cancer,
these cells are going to
invade the capillaries,
and the lymph vessels,
and use them to spread out in the body.
So I’m going to show that
with an arrow and an arrow.
Please don’t forget that
my champion lymph vessels,
though they’ll eventually
join with millions,
along the way, they
detour into lymph nodes.
These are specialized
places throughout the body,
where immune cells can
be exposed to proteins
from invading pathogens that
may be present in particular
tissues, and this will
trigger an immune response.
Let’s move this image up
and go back to talking about
the cancer cells that are
spreading all over the body.
The cancer cells traveling
through the lymph vessels
see the lymph nodes as their
new homes, and they settle
down here and begin to form
a secondary site of cancer.
Often, this is the first place
cancer cells will spread,
so in lung cancer, the
lymph nodes along the center
of the chest are quickly invaded,
and this makes sense
because they are nearby
the original site of the lung cancer.
So cancer cells are
floating around in the blood
and they can go to new
locations, like the brain,
or the bones, and liver,
this doesn’t quite look
like a liver, but you get the point,
and in lung cancer
especially, the adrenal gland,
forming new homes, or secondary tumors
in all of these sites, which
make metastatic cancers,
or cancers that have spread,
very challenging to fight,
because now you’re battling cancer
in multiple locations.
This is why a significant
effort from the scientific
community, has gone
into understanding more
about what makes cancer cells spread,
and how they actually do
it, so that drugs can be
targeted to prevent this from happening,
and increase the chances
that a cancer patient
will survive.