Could Chemotherapy Make Prostate Cancer Worse?
A new study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that chemotherapy may make cancer worse. The findings of this study were completely unexpected and are discouraging to endocrinologists and other health professionals dedicated to treating cancer patients.
Chemotherapy has long been regarded as the most effective treatment for cancer. However, researchers have noted that cancer cells are easier to kill in laboratory environments than in patients who have developed tumors. Peter Nelson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center decided to investigate the phenomenon in greater detail.
Nelson and his team evaluated tissues of men who underwent chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer. The researchers found that the treatment caused significant damage to the DNA of the cells. Chemotherapy treatments do not specifically target cancerous cells. They affect neighboring cells as well, which can have a detrimental impact on the immune system and cause other problems which could exacerbate the cancer.
Chemotherapy is effective at delaying cancer cells from growing or reproducing. However, they have also found that many cancer cells continue to survive for longer periods than they did without the treatment.
Medical scientists considered the possibility that chemotherapy could reduce the risk of survival by destroying healthy cells. Nelson and his team decided to investigate the process in more detail. Their study found that when healthy cells are damaged by chemotherapy, they release a protein known as WNT16B. This protein can make cancer even worse.
When WNT16B is secreted from damaged cells, tumorous cells can reproduce more quickly. They also tend to be stronger and more resilient to future treatments. Levels of this protein increase more than 30 times among patients who have undergone chemotherapy. Researchers didn’t expect this to happen, but felt it was a factor that needed to be investigated in more detail.
The team’s first study focused on tissues from men suffering from prostate cancer. They later conducted additional studies on women who had developed breast and ovarian cancer. They made the same observations.
Chemotherapy is often an effective treatment for cancer patients. However, Nelson’s team has shown that almost all of them become more resistant to chemotherapy after time. As they develop resistance to chemotherapy the cancer can be much more difficult to treat.
Although these findings may seem discouraging to many medical professionals and cancer patients, Nelson said it is important for people to understand how chemotherapy treatments really work. He said that a better understanding of the treatment can pave the way for more effective treatments in the future. New chemotherapy treatments could be conducted in a way that reduces the likelihood of the adverse effects Nelson and his team observed in their study.