Scientists may have found a new way to fight cancer. This method makes it harder for cancer cells to fight against chemotherapy by blocking the DNA that cancer uses to repair itself. Although the new treatment has not yet been tested on humans, it was was successful in mouse models.
A professor of Cancer Research at MIT named Graham Walker is the head of this new study and paper. Walker has a lot of experience in cancer research. His last project was a study on how cancer cells repair itself. Cancer repair themselves through a process called “translesion synthesis” (TLS). The cells use this process to fight against chemotherapy.
How Cells Multiply
Healthy cells use a similar process to repair DNA by eliminating DNA that’s been hurt, and the healthy cells are usually pretty accurate. However, when the cells become cancer and start to use TLS, they become less successful at repairing the damage. TLS uses a polymerase, which is an enzyme. Enzymes make copies of DNA. The TLS enzyme does not do a good job copying DNA and the cancerous cells stay there. The TLS process does not remove them.
The more inaccurate process also makes the cancer cells more resistant to any treatment. Because they are so error prone, they are responsible for almost all of the mutations cancer cells can make that help them resist chemotherapy.
A Drug That Uses the New Process
The new treatment fights against this, though, and one drug that uses the new treatment is called Cisplatin. Cisplatin is used to fight bladder, ovarian, lung, and testicular cancers. It works by stopping the cancer cells from being able to repair their DNA. Once enough of the DNA is damaged, the cancer cells eventually die.
Some cancers have even started to fight against Cisplatin, though. The drug also comes with some difficult side effects. It can cause hearing loss, stomach and kidney problems, as well as make it harder for the immune system to fight certain diseases.
That’s why doctors are using this new study to try and make the drug stronger. If chemo doesn’t help you, sometimes it can hurt you. Doctors want to improve the chemo treatment by introducing this drug and making the cancer easier to fight with repeated doses. The study also includes high ranking scientists from Duke University.
The Study’s Development
The study began with the doctors going back to some research they did over ten years ago. The previous study was about how TLS works. It helped the doctors find that TLS had to be interrupted if Cisplatin was going to work to augment chemotherapy. They used these findings in a mouse study where they were very effective in treating lung and blood cancer. The cancers treated this way almost never came back.
In the newer study, they looked through 10,000 possible drugs to find which ones caused the biggest problem for the TLS process. They finally found one that stopped TLS from getting the proteins it needs, and that meant the cancer could not fight back as well against the chemo. The scientists then used this new drug and Cisplatin together, and found it was much better at killing cancer than chemotherapy alone.
The researchers think that these new drugs can be used to stop cancer recurrence, because it fights the process through which cancer cells multiply.
The researchers then did another mouse study where they combined the drugs to fight skin cancer, and again the combo was more effective than chemotherapy by itself. The plan now is to start testing the two drugs on humans. By doing that, scientists hope they can find which situations the two drugs work best in. It will then be easier to decide which people they should be given to.