Research holds promise of sparing healthy cells
Cleveland Clinic researchers recently presented findings that suggest cancer could be treated in a novel way that is much less toxic to patients.
The researchers found that they could modify the dose and schedule of an existing chemotherapy drug to stop the growth of cancer cells and encourage the growth of healthy cells. Current treatments kill both cancer cells and healthy cells, which leads to numerous side effects.
The results of the studies suggest that the mechanisms that cause cancer cells to divide and grow uncontrollably are often different from the mechanisms that drive the growth of healthy stem cells. This difference can be exploited to selectively stop the growth of the cancer cells without stopping the growth of healthy stem cells.
“Today, most cancer chemotherapy works the margins – the chemotherapy is marginally more poisonous to cancer cells than normal cells,” says lead investigator Yogen Saunthararajah, MD, of the Taussig Cancer Institute. “Therefore, treatment is difficult and risky for patients and can only be given for a few days at a time, with long periods without treatment during which the cancer can regrow.
“Using this alternative approach, which in the test tube has opposite effects on cancer cells versus healthy stem cells, perhaps therapy can be given regularly and for longer periods, to get the maximum benefits out of treatment. We are excited that we can modify the use of existing drugs to produce this effect, which will allow us to start clinical trials soon.”
The National Institutes of Health is supporting a clinical trial testing this approach with the blood cancer myelodysplastic syndrome. Proof of the concept in this clinical trial would open the door to treating other cancers in a similar way.
The results were presented in December at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in San Francisco and were highlighted as a “Best of ASH” presentation.
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