A lot of tough decisions are faced by cancer patients. One of these is whether or not to get chemotherapy. They find it hard to make a decision as they are concerned about the side effects which are admittedly severe. But one of the biggest reason that some people decide against it is that according to studies it can actually initiate the spread of cancer into nearby areas of the body.
A study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University showed how chemotherapy triggers the cellular responses that spur the spread. Findings of the previous studies show that chemotherapy leads to cellular changes in breast cancer patients, that is why the researchers explore that very common frontline chemotherapy drug paclitaxel. The researchers chose the lungs because they are the closest organ to the breasts.
They found that patients with breast cancer who were given paclitaxel chemotherapy had overexpressed Atf3 genes, a transcription factor activated by stress. While those who did not undergo chemo didn’t have an overexpression in this gene. The gene causes damage in two ways. One is that it distributes cancer cells throughout the lungs, and then it primes the area to boost the cells’ chances of surviving and thriving.
This means that chemotherapy can activate this gene due to its carcinogenic effect on the body. The researchers were surprised by just how much this drug seemed to make patients’ bodies favorable to cancer.
Tsonwin Hai, the senior author of the study said:
“That chemotherapy can paradoxically promote cancer progression is an emerging revelation in cancer research. However, a molecular-level understanding of this devastating effect is not clear.”
She believes it’s an active process involving a biological change that actually beckons the cancerous cells to escape into the patient’s blood.
She encourages the medical community to have an opened mind about the double-edged sword that is chemotherapy. In some cases, it may help treat cancer. However, it could also raise the chances of spreading it.
Previous Studies Point To Chemotherapy’s Ability To Spread Cancer
Though in the short term, some chemotherapy drugs might shrink tumors, they raise the chances the cancer cells will migrate to other parts of the body. At the same time, they might also be triggering a system of repair that allows them to grow back stronger.
A team of researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that once patients were given two common chemotherapy drugs, they experienced an increase in the number of “doorways” in blood vessels that facilitated the spread of cancer throughout their bodies.
For women who were looking for treatment of breast cancer, this isn’t good news. Chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer has been linked to brain damage. It becomes a less attractive option since it could spread cancer.