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Sidestepping Side Effects

Blocking inflammatory proteins resulting from chemotherapy reduces cancer spread

26 November 2022

Sidestepping Side Effects

Having surgery to remove a tumour, followed by chemotherapy to make sure any lingering shreds of cancer are killed, is a gruelling experience. So it’s disheartening if the cancer then spreads and grows anew, aided in part by the very treatment that was intended to shut it down. This can happen in breast cancer patients, but how chemotherapy prompts the spread, or metastasis, was unclear. Researchers have now discovered that one side-effect of the chemotherapy – connective tissue cells creating an inflammatory environment – ultimately supports remaining crumbs of cancer to spread and regrow in the lungs (mouse lung pictured with breast cancer metastases). Adding an agent to the chemotherapy which blocked the activity of proteins (red) involved in recruiting immune cells to cause inflammation led to a large reduction in cancer spreading. This approach could improve the efficacy of chemotherapy for not just breast cancer, but potentially other types as well.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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