Seed and Soil

As we all know, it is not cancer itself that kills but its metastasis. A tumour that has not metastasised is controllable through both orthodox and complementary means. I came across these articles recently, which builds on the “seed and soil” theory by Stephen Paget from 1889. According to the “seed and soil” theory, it is difficult for cancer cells to survive outside their region of origin, so in order to metastasise they must find a location with similar characteristics. For example, breast tumour cells, which gather calcium ions from breast milk, metastasise to bone tissue, where they can gather calcium ions from bone. Malignant melanoma spreads to the brain, presumably because neural tissue and melanocytes arise from the same cell line in the embryo.

While researchers have been studying metastasis for more than 100 years, it is only recently we have gained insight into the mechanisms by which metastatic cells arise from primary tumours and the reasons that certain tumour types tend to metastasise to specific organs. Stephen Paget’s proposal that metastasis depends on cross-talk between selected cancer cells (the ‘seeds’) and specific organ micro-environments (the ‘soil’) still holds forth today. It is now known that the potential of a tumour cell to metastasise depends on its interactions with the homeostatic factors that promote tumour-cell growth, survival, angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis.
Or so the theory suggests but from a TCM point of view we can understand this differently. I believe the two factors require two approaches although there would be considerable overlap. Classic or traditional formulations and the ‘pattern discrimination’ which supports their use may be the approach to treating ‘soil’ while the ‘seed’ could be considered the focus of the more modern use of isolates and the scientifically investigated formulations. Just a thought, any comments?

Article:  Seed and Soil

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