Chemo can backfire, boost cancer growth

2012-08-05 22:30

Paris - Cancer-busting chemotherapy can cause damage to healthy cells which triggers them to secrete a protein that sustains tumour growth and resistance to further treatment, a study said on Sunday.

Researchers in the United States made the "completely unexpected" finding while seeking to explain why cancer cells are so resilient inside the human body when they are easy to kill in the lab.

They tested the effects of a type of chemotherapy on tissue collected from men with prostate cancer, and found "evidence of DNA damage" in healthy cells after treatment, the scientists wrote in Nature Medicine.

Chemotherapy works by inhibiting reproduction of fast-dividing cells such as those found in tumours.

The scientists found that healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy secreted more of a protein called WNT16B which boosts cancer cell survival.

"The increase in WNT16B was completely unexpected," study co-author Peter Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle told AFP.

The protein was taken up by tumour cells neighbouring the damaged cells.

"WNT16B, when secreted, would interact with nearby tumour cells and cause them to grow, invade, and importantly, resist subsequent therapy," said Nelson.

In cancer treatment, tumours often respond well initially, followed by rapid regrowth and then resistance to further chemotherapy.


Rates of tumour cell reproduction have been shown to accelerate between treatments.

"Our results indicate that damage responses in benign cells... may directly contribute to enhanced tumour growth kinetics," wrote the team.

The researchers said they confirmed their findings with breast and ovarian cancer tumours.

The result paves the way for research into new, improved treatment, said Nelson.

"For example, an antibody to WNT16B, given with chemotherapy, may improve responses [kill more tumour cells]," he said in an email exchange.

"Alternatively, it may be possible to use smaller, less toxic doses of therapy."

  • delish7564 - 2012-08-06 10:23

    Rather naive to think something that works in a lab will react exactly the same way within the human body. Not really rocket science to think that one through :)

  • elsa.tarr.7 - 2012-08-06 12:07

    Its six of the one....and half a dozen of the other??........ Crest sindrome...chemo is part of the smart theropy...remission not in sight yet....

  • oliver.jamday - 2012-08-06 12:45

    I've been saying the above for years - and I've been ridiculed by many for doing so. I’ve learned several fundamentals I’d like to share for comment. Cancer is the most profitable disease known to the human race – global medical industry benefits from this directly. This is especially relevant in SA where medical costs remain amongst the highest in the world, ergo it is not entirely in the best “financial” interest for said global medical industry to correctly educate us. (think about what I am actually saying) Many have realized that chemo does not promise what so many are hypnotized into believing, and are well-aware of critical side-effects and essentially, the crux of the article above. Many people consider cancer as being almost 'inevitable' – we are all ‘waiting’ to ‘get it’ - I’ve heard too many people talk about it, to simply ignore it. This tells us that cancer is one of the most feared diseases even known to our species. RIGHT or WRONG? After a fair amount of research – I am aware of a most effective method for preventing and curing (yes, curing) cancer, and it’s literally as simple as changing one’s diet. A very specific and fairly precise cancer diet consists of quantities of certain juiced vegetables, namely carrots and beets. And this has proven to be the most effective treatment compared to all commercially available Chemo / Medical Aid. Several minutes of ‘Googling’ will reveal such alternatives … What are our thoughts?

  • Ayanda Mathunjwa - 2012-08-08 20:44

    It's a well known fact that it kills more people than it helps, it ain't nothing but radiation, a money making scheme, giving people false hope:(

  • sachasea - 2012-09-17 15:09

    “Over 75% of the oncologists polled said that if they had cancer they would never use the same chemotherapy they prescribe for their patients on themselves because of the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy and its unacceptable degree of toxicity.” - Los Angeles Times report

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