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Lancet Journal Commentary Cites Significance of LSU Health New Orleans Obesity-Cancer Research

April 14, 2022

neutrophil graphic

A recent LSU Health New Orleans study is the subject of a commentary published in eBioMedicine, a premium translational biomedical research journal of The Lancet. The LSU Health New Orleans research found that low-density neutrophils may represent a novel immunological link to explain how obesity establishes a chronic inflammatory condition that promotes coexisting diseases, including cancer. It also confirmed and translated pre-clinical findings to human patients. The commentary is available here.

The research, led by faculty at LSU Health New Orleans Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology, explored the role of low-density neutrophils, which are increased in inflammatory diseases, in obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, inflammatory arthritis, and at least 13 types of cancer.

The research team compared the number, function and gene expression profiles of low-density neutrophils in the blood in patients who have morbid obesity with normal-weight controls. They also measured changes in the frequency of low-density neutrophils after bariatric surgery. They found that low-density neutrophils and inflammatory markers were significantly increased in patients with morbid obesity, but that they decreased significantly after bariatric surgery.

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“Our results suggest that low-density neutrophils may represent a neutrophil subset associated with chronic inflammation, a feature of obesity that has been previously associated with the appearance and progression of comorbidities,” says Maria D. Sanchez-Pino, PhD, Assistant Professor – Research in the Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology at LSU Health New Orleans, the first author on the research paper. “Furthermore, bariatric surgery, as an efficient therapy for severe obesity, reduces low-density neutrophils in circulation and improves several components of the metabolic syndrome supporting its recognized anti-inflammatory and beneficial metabolic effects.”
Dr. Maria Sanchez-Pino
Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell of the immune system. Low-density neutrophils are a subcategory. They have been found in large numbers in the peripheral blood of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, HIV, chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. They have also been found in healthy people, where they seemingly function in a protective role. Questions remain about their role in health and disease.

The commentary authors write, “While the morbidity of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes with obesity is well known, the impact of obesity-driven immune dysregulation is often less appreciated. Obesity increases susceptibility to infectious diseases, a fact most recently driven home by worse outcomes among obese patients with COVID-19 and is also linked to autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis as well as cancer. While questions abound, Sanchez-Pino et al. have opened an important line of inquiry into the role of LDNs in obesity, obesity-related comorbidities, and bariatric surgery.”

“Dr. Sanchez-Pino’s work is important in helping us understand how obesity promotes the development of certain cancers,” notes the paper’s senior author Augusto Ochoa, MD, Cancer Center Deputy Director and Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine. “Because obesity is so high in Louisiana, we need to find ways to prevent these types of tumors.”

“Dr. Sanchez-Pino’s work represents an important first step in understanding how obesity drives cancer outcomes,” says John H. Stewart, IV, MD, MBA, FACS, LSU Health New Orleans Professor of Surgery and Founding Director of the LSU Health-LCMC Cancer Center. “I believe that it will ultimately drive our efforts to address obesity as a major driver of cancer disparities in Louisiana.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSU Health New Orleans) educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's health sciences university leader, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous annual economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or