Israeli scientists: Recurrence of breast cancer in mice reduced by 88% by adding drug to chemotherapy
Israeli scientists say they were able to reduce the frequency of breast cancer recurrence in laboratory mice by 88 percent by adding another drug to chemotherapy.
A team of academics from Tel Aviv University say that inflammation in the body in response to chemotherapy can actually nurture renegade breast cancer cells that evade treatment. Using inflammation blockers in combination with chemotherapy seems to counteract this effect, thereby reducing the chance of the cancer coming back.
The research of biologist prof. was recently reviewed. Nate Erez and her team published in the journal Nature Communications.
Academics believe the method can be adapted to humans, although they expect additional research to take 5-10 years.
Erez has spent years researching the collateral damage chemotherapy can cause.
Hair loss is well known, but it is less well known an increasing number of studies on chemotherapy, in some cases, increasing the risk of metastatic recurrence. This means a cancer return caused by cancer cells that have traveled away from the tumor and survived elsewhere in the body during chemotherapy.
In the study, animals were injected with tumors that mimic human breast cancer, and like human patients, the tumors were then removed and they were given chemotherapy. “Among the mice that received only chemotherapy, about 52% had extensive recurrences of metastases, but among those receiving inflammation blockers, only 6% had a recurrence,” Erez told The Times of Israel.
“We are excited about our findings in mouse models and hope that they can be translated into the development of better therapeutic strategies for patients, to mitigate the adverse effects of chemotherapy and prevent the recurrence of metastatic breast cancer.”
Erez explained that the research, conducted with Lea Monteran, Dr. Nour Ershaid, Yael Zait, Ye’ela Scharff and others, began as an observation of how chemotherapy can sometimes harm patients.
“Chemotherapy is used to treat many types of cancer, and the good news is that it kills cancer cells, but chemotherapy can be a double-edged sword because it’s not a very sophisticated weapon,” said Erez,
“That’s because it not only kills cancer cells, but also causes a lot of collateral damage. It kills even healthy dividing cells, hence hair loss.
“So while it effectively kills cancer cells, chemotherapy also has some undesirable and even harmful side effects, including damage to healthy tissues. The most dangerous of them are probably internal inflammations that paradoxically could help the remaining cancer cells to form metastases in distant organs. The goal of our study was to find out how this happens and try to find an effective solution.”
The team concluded from their observations that breast cancer usually returns after the cells hide in the lungs, which become hospitable to the cells as a result of chemotherapy.
“What we’ve shown is that chemotherapy-induced tissue damage promotes an inflammatory response in the lung,” Erez said. “Then, if small amounts of breast cancer cells remain in the lungs, this chemotherapy-induced inflammatory response ironically makes those cells thrive and creates a hospitable environment for the cells that then cause breast cancer to recur.”
They found that tissue damage caused by chemotherapy triggered an inflammatory response in fibroblasts, cells found in connective tissue. These activated fibroblasts begin to secrete proteins that cause an influx of immune cells from the bone marrow into the lungs. Immune cells, in turn, trigger an inflammatory process that creates an environment conducive to cancer cells.
After identifying the proteins secreted by the fibroblasts, the team used an existing drug known to prevent the proteins from causing inflammation, but which was not previously known to have value in stopping the recurrence of metastases.
After further research and testing, if the blockers are effective in humans, they could potentially be given to patients with chemotherapy doses.