Nicotine Promotes the Spread of Brain Tumors in Lung Cancer Patients

Nicotine promotes the spread of lung cancer cells into the brain, where they can form deadly brain tumors, according to the findings of a Wake Forest School of Medicine study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM).

A high number of lung cancer patients develop brain metastasis (40%), and the average survival rate of such patients is only six months. “There is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms that drive brain metastasis so that more effective therapies can be developed,” says Dr. Kounosuke Watabe, a professor of cancer biology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC in a press release.

In this study, Dr. Watabe and his colleagues assessed 281 patients with advanced lung cancer and discovered that brain metastasis was significantly more common in patients who continued to smoke juxtaposed to those who never smoked.


“Many cancer patients find it difficult to quit smoking even after their diagnosis due to nicotine addiction,” Watabe says. “E-cigarette, nicotine patch, and nicotine gum are commonly used as nicotine replacement therapies to help these patients cease smoking. However, our results clearly show that nicotine has profound and long-term effects on brain metastasis progression, suggesting that cancer patients should be cautious in their use of nicotine for smoking cessation.”