Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, US have shown that chemotherapy can be backfired by encouraging the growth of healthy body cells in the region of the tumour to generate a protein which helps the cancer to resist treatment.
Some forms solid tumour cancers such as those affecting the breast, prostate, lung and bowel, eventually stop responding to chemotherapy and make the disease harder to tackle. Chemotherapy treatment could affect healthy connective tissue called fibroblasts. Cancer drug caused damage to DNA that made fibroblasts drew off thirty times more of protein than normal.
This protein triggered prostate tumours to grow and spread into surrounding tissue, in addition to that make it resist chemotherapy. Blocking the treatment reaction of fibroblasts could improve the efficacy of chemotherapy. For their study researchers examined cancer cells from prostate, breast and ovarian cancer patients who had been treated with chemotherapy.
Lead researcher Dr Peter Nelson, explained cancer cells inside the body live in a very complex environment or neighborhood. Where the tumour cell resides and who its neighbours are influence its response and resistance to therapy. The study findings were reported in the journal Nature Medicine.
Prof Fran Balkwill from Cancer Research UK stated that this finding ties in with other research that has shown that cancer treatments do not just affect cancer cells, but can also target cells around tumours. This effect can sometimes be a positive one, as is the case when chemotherapy stimulates healthy immune cells to attack tumours nearby.
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, added Prof Balkwill.