New research shows that it may be possible to ‘soften-up’ cancers before blasting them with chemotherapy drugs.
BBC news reports on a new study, published in the Cancer Cell, which uncovered how tumors can become resistant to commonly used pharmaceutical drugs.
The University of Manchester research team suggests that drugs that are already in development may be able to counter this resistance to make chemotherapy more effective on patients.
“The team was looking at a class of drugs called taxanes, which are used to treat a range of cancers including breast and ovarian,” according to BBC news. The research group at the University of Manchester was trying to determine how taxanes work.
What are researchers learning?
They are studying cancerous cells growing in the laboratory to be able to show how the class of drugs triggers cancer cells to demolish themselves.
However at the same time researchers discovered a key difference between cancers that were susceptible to the medications and those, which were inherently resistant, or later produced resistance.
Researchers found high levels of one protein, known as Bcl-xL, in those cells that were resisting treatment. However medications are in development, which can neutralize Bcl-xL's effects.
One of the researchers, Professor Stephen Taylor, told the BBC News website...
“Potentially combining this with taxanes you could take resistant cancers and make them sensitive. These new inhibitors would essentially soften-up the cancer cells so when they are treated they are more likely to die.”
The research team wants to examine their approach on samples of a patient's cancer as well as in studies with animals.
What are some of the concerns?
One issue will be whether making cancers more vulnerable to chemotherapy would also make healthy tissue more vulnerable and heighten the threats of side effects.
Dr. Smith, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said,
“In cases where patients don't benefit from taxane-based chemotherapy, doctors could add drugs that target Bcl-xL to overcome cancer's defenses. It is still early days for this research but, if the results are confirmed in clinical trials, it has the potential to improve treatment for thousands of cancer patients.”
BBC news also reports on the signs of breast cancer that women often miss. This is particularly true of older women.
Statistics show that around one in three women diagnosed with breast cancer every year are aged 70 or older.
“A campaign by Public Health England, called Be Clear on Cancer, is urging older women to visit their doctor if they notice breast changes, such as a lump or a change to the nipple, skin or the shape of the breast,” according to the BBC.