Can Chemotherapy Worsen Lymphoma?
Chemotherapy has been a traditional source of treatment for many types of cancer. Although the cell-killing chemicals have reportedly controlled and even cured many types of cancer, it’s also known to kill healthy cells and have serious side-effects.
Nevertheless, chemo has been the go-to for many years.
Currently, other types of intervention are used in addition to chemotherapy, or as replacement treatment, for various types of cancer. Recent research has discovered that some methods of chemotherapy may not be as safe as once thought.
The evolution of chemotherapy
The use of chemicals to treat cancer was accidentally stumbled upon in the 1940s.
It seems that during WWII, U.S. scientists were researching the effects of mustard gas on those in the Navy.
During their study, they realized this chemical warfare substance caused changes to bone marrow cells.
Interestingly, the U.S Army was also studying mustard gas as they sought new types of gaseous warfare, while also looking for ways to reduce the effect of such gases on their soldiers.
They also studied a related compound called nitrogen mustard.
Nitrogen mustard and cancer
As studies on nitrogen mustard progressed, it was found to be effective in treating lymphoma (cancer of the lymphocytes, or white blood cells.)
It was also later used for treatment of other types of cancer.
Over time, scientists branched off from nitrogen mustard to create many similar but more effective cancer-treating drugs to fight cancer such as those used to impair the DNA within their cells.
One of these new drugs was methotrexate, still used as a chemotherapy agent.
It was at this point that “The era of chemotherapy had begun.”
Since then, the use of combined chemo agents has proven to be very successful in the treatments of a variety of cancer types, to include lymphoma.
However, there have been recent findings on a previously-unknown detrimental effect of chemo drugs known as alkylating agents.
These findings are causing scientists to ask, “Is chemo at the heart of cancer regrowth?”
Recent findings on chemotherapy
Recent scientific findings on alkylating agents has caused great concern for the medical community.
It’s been found that these alkylating agents are not as effective as commonly believed. This type of chemo drug is meant to ‘irreversibly arrest’ targeted cancer cells from further growth. This ‘extended sleep’ status is referred to as ‘senescence’.
However, recent findings show the process has been ‘double-whammied’ by the cancer cells the chemotherapy was designed to target.
Scientists are finding that the use of alkylating agents have essentially failed. Alkylating agents, designed to cause irreparable damage to the DNA of cancer cells so they can no longer divide and propagate, has become a major disappointment.
It’s beginning to appear that, in the process of senescence, rather than putting the cancerous cells into ‘extended sleep’, the process may actually create a ‘breeding ground’ for cancer stem cells, allowing them to re-grow and spread.
In other words, the recent research “sheds light on how one type of chemotherapy provides a safe haven for tumor cells, boosting cancer recurrence and growth in the long-run.”
Results of this study were published online in December 2017.
Read on to learn more about this discovery and what it means for future treatment.