Cancer and the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is critical to the body’s surveillance against cancer. The lymphatic system is one of the most common avenues for the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Science and medicine will immeasurably add to our ability to conquer cancer when we learn more about how cancer cells influence the development of new lymphatic vessels and pathways, establishing the route for these cells to spread to other parts of the body. This process known as “lymphangiogenesis” is an emerging focus within the scientific cancer research community.
Infection/HIV and the Lymphatic System
HIV and AIDS are directly connected to the lymphatic system. The ability to effectively control HIV requires increased knowledge of the lymphatics. Continued research will lead to an understanding of how infectious organisms invade the lymphatic system and overcome its normal protective role. Greater understanding of the pathways and physiology of the lymphatics, will also increase our ability to deliver antibiotic and anti-viral medication to infected tissues and organs.
Inflammation, Auto-immunity and the Lymphatic System
Inflammatory and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE), scleroderma, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and others are impacted by the lymphatic system. All of these diseases are believed to be connected to an inflammatory process initiated by the body’s immune response. The lymphatic system governs the body’s immune system that normally makes the proteins, called antibodies, to protect the body against viruses, bacteria, and other foreign materials.
These foreign materials are called antigens. In an autoimmune disorder such as lupus, or arthritis the immune system looses its ability to tell the difference between foreign substances (antigens) and its own cells and tissues. The immune system then makes antibodies directed against “self”. These antibodies, called “auto-antibodies”, react with the “self” antigens to form immune complexes. The immune complexes build up in the tissues and can cause inflammation, injury to tissues, and pain. A better understanding of how the system works will greatly increase the possibility of discovering treatments and cures for these diseases as well.
Digestion, Pulmonary Function and the Lymphatic System
Lymphatic insufficiency of the internal organs is a particularly common problem among children who are born with inherited or developmental disorders of the lymphatics. Impairment of lymphatic development in the intestines, for example, leads to malabsorption, ascites (collections of fat-laden lymph within the abdominal cavity), underdevelopment from malnutrion, immune malfunction, and premature death.
Disturbed development of lymphatic channels can also exist elsewhere in the body causing serious bodily malfunction, as is the case with pulmonary lymphangiectasia, cystic hygromas and lymphangiomas. Impaired vision, swallowing and breathing difficulties are often complications resulting from these disorders.
Scientific investigation of the lymphatic system will provide preventive and therapeutic benefits for hundreds of millions of people. The Lymphatic Research Foundation fosters and supports research to discover the links between lymphatic function, diseases, and levels of wellness.
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