Seattle, Washington - Scientists at a Seattle cancer hospital believe they may have discovered why treating patients with chemotherapy may lead to their cancer returning in a more serious and aggressive form, reports a story by CBS News.
Researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center set out to determine why most cancer patients develop resistance to chemotherapy, focusing on a non-cancerous normal cell known as a fiberblast, which the study authors say “live in the cancer’s neighborhood.”
"Cancer cells inside the body live in a very complex environment…” said senior author Dr. Peter S. Nelson, a scientist at the center's human biology division.
“Where the tumor cell resides and who its neighbors are influence its response and resistance to therapy.”
“Fibroblasts typically play in an important role in wound healing and producing collagen to help maintain structure of cells,” the article explains. “When a fibroblast is exposed to chemotherapy, however, its DNA becomes damaged and winds up producing molecules that have been tied to tumor growth.”
Researchers examined a molecule they dubbed WNT16B, which they discovered allows cancer cells to grow and invade surrounding healthy tissue. Levels of this molecule increased some thirty-fold when exposed to chemotherapy. Hence, the authors agreed that this protein may indeed play a role in tumor resistance.
The researchers hope that this new knowledge will help them and others discover more effective treatments for various kinds of cancer and may help doctors understand that aggressive chemotherapy isn’t always in the best interest of the patient.
Chemotherapy is the chosen treatment for most forms of cancer, including mesothelioma. It’s often paired with surg ery in an effort to eradicate any cancer cells that are left behind after the surgical procedure of choice. More and more doctors have been reporting that their patients have become resistant to various chemo drugs, a sure death sentence for those with metastatic cancer who can no longer be successfully treated with these medications.