Study reveals cancer therapy can also drive tumour regrowth

Friday 19 January 2018

A study involving multiple institutions in the United States reported that conventional cancer therapy initiates a series of events that encourage living cancer cells to grow and develop new tumours

Killing tumour cells using conventional cancer therapy may have an unintended effect of fuelling the growth and division of remaining cancer cells, leading to the development of a new and more aggressive tumour.

Tumour reoccurrence is a major issue in various cancers, including brain tumours. Thus, it is essential to understand the driving forces behind tumour regrowth.

The findings of a study recently published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine stated that chemotherapy or other targeted cancer therapies create a build-up of dead tumour cells. This debris of tumour cells sets off an inflammatory cascade, which is the body's response to harmful stimuli. This response encourages residual, living cancer cells to grow and develop into new tumours.

"Our findings reveal that conventional cancer therapy is essentially a double-edged sword," says co-senior author on the study Mark Kieran, who is a scientific advisor at The Brain Tumour Charity. "But more importantly, we also found a pathway to block the tumour-stimulating effects of cancer cell debris using a class of mediators called resolvins."

Resolvins are naturally occurring substances in the body that turn off the inflammatory response by increasing the uptake of cell debris into white blood cells called macrophages. Researchers found that giving resolvins in combination with various cancer therapies enhanced clearance of tumour cell debris, which in turn reduced the inflammatory response and the incidence of tumour regrowth.

These results suggest that resolvins can complement chemotherapy or other targeted cancer therapies. Furthermore, resolvins are already being tested in clinical trials for other inflammatory diseases and can be translated to oncological use.

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