Even though modern science has been able to cure many diseases, there remain numerous ones that persist to be incurable and while treatments may exist, these do not particularly substantiate cures.
Cancer for example, is a very versatile disease in that it is known to afflict all major organs of the human body and while various methods of treatment can help to mitigate and stymie the growth of the disease, it seems that the most common form, chemotherapy, may actually be counterproductive.
While often quite painful and causing various physical changes, such as hair and weight loss etc., chemotherapy, using a slew of cancer-fighting chemicals, is the best known treatment of cancer, but according to a new research, it seems that in cases, chemotherapy actually helps the cancer to build a resistance to treatment.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, USA, have found that chemotherapy can actually lend to the resistance of cancer cells towards treatment and that the way in which it is used may also promote immunity.
According to figures, in around 90 percent of cases of solid cancer such as that of the lungs, prostate, breasts etc., patients develop a resistance towards chemotherapy. And according to the present research, this resistance may possibly stem from the chemotherapy itself.
Detailing their work in the journal, Nature Medicine, the researchers found that chemotherapy causes a "rogue reaction" in the cells of the body, specifically those wound-healing cells that surround a tumor, to start creating a protein which actually helps the cancer to build a resistance. The researchers found that in the case of fibroblast cells, which help heal wounds and also create collagen, chemotherapy actually damages the DNA, which causes the fibroblast cells to excessively produce, around 30 times more, a protein called WNT16B, which actually causes cancer cells to grow more rapidly and develop a resistance towards chemotherapy.
It was previously not known that the cancer’s resistance towards treatment involved a protein, but WNT16B confirms this.
Speaking about the research, lead researcher Peter Nelson said, "Cancer therapies are increasingly evolving to be very specific, targeting key molecular engines that drive the cancer rather than more generic vulnerabilities, such as damaging DNA. Our findings indicate that the tumour microenvironment also can influence the success or failure of these more precise therapies."
Prof. Fran Balkwill of Cancer Research UK said, "This work fits with other research showing that cancer treatments don't just affect cancer cells, but can also target cells in and around tumours. Sometimes this can be good - for instance, chemotherapy can stimulate surrounding healthy immune cells to attack tumours. But this work confirms that healthy cells surrounding the tumour can also help the tumour to become resistant to treatment. The next step is to find ways to target these resistance mechanisms to help make chemotherapy more effective."