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Scientists discover way to eliminate chemotherapy side effects in mice

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Anyone who has been through cancer, or had a loved one battle it, will be grateful that we live in a world in which chemotherapy exists. One thing they probably won’t be so grateful for are the terrible side effects that accompany chemo — which can include muscle weakness, nausea, dizziness, and more.

Which is why it’s exciting to hear that scientists have published a paper describing how these side effect might be nullified.

“Chemotherapeutic drugs are an effective anti-cancer strategy but come with a number of side effects due to the lack of specificity against cancer cells,” Dr. Marco Demaria, a co-author in the study from the Netherlands’ University of Groningen, told Digital Trends. “During this study, we have shown that a number of these drugs can promote cellular aging, also known as cellular senescence, in many tissues independently of tumors. Eliminating senescent cells from the body using a transgenic mouse model was sufficient to reduce several toxicities associated to the treatment, and improve animals’ healthspan. Moreover, cancer relapse was delayed.”

In other words, in animal tests with mice suffering from cancer, the symptoms of four common chemotherapy drugs (doxorubicin, cisplatin, paclitaxel and temozolomide) could be gotten rid of by giving them drugs to kill the senescent cells.

As to the billion dollar question of whether similar findings can be extrapolated to humans, there is reason to be optimistic. The researchers discovered that a higher number of senescent cells pre-chemotherapy correlated with increased fatigue after treatment in breast cancer human patients: a similar finding to the way that mice behaved.

“We are now planning different studies to expand the correlation between cellular senescence and chemotherapy,” Demaria continued. “Our goal is to develop compounds that could interfere with senescent cells to generate combinatorial treatments with low toxicities and high efficacy. However, we need to keep in consideration that senescent cells cover a number of beneficial functions for the organism, and currently we are not able to discriminate and target only the deleterious senescence. Deep characterizations of the different types of senescent cells are needed to design drugs for human treatment.”

To put it another way, don’t expect overnight results, but the prognosis is looking positive!

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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