Study finds certain cells can be 'softened'

A study, published in the Cancer Cell by a team from University of Manchester, uncovered how tumours can become resistant to commonly used drugs.

Researchers have suggested that it may be possible to "soften-up" cancers before hitting them with chemotherapy drugs.

A study, published in the Cancer Cell by a team from University of Manchester, uncovered how tumours can become resistant to commonly used drugs.

The team suggests drugs already in development may be able to counter this resistance to make chemotherapy more effective, although the approach has not yet been tested in people.

The team were looking at a class of drugs called taxanes, which are used to treat a range of cancers including breast and ovarian and by studying cancerous cells growing in the laboratory they were able to show how the class of drugs trigger cancer cells to kill themselves.

They however discovered a key difference between cancers that were susceptible to the drugs and those which were inherently resistant, or later developed resistance.

Also it was found that high levels of one protein, known as Bcl-xL, in those cells  were resisting treatment, but drugs are in development which can neutralise Bcl-xL's effects.

Thus, potentially combining this with taxanes you could take resistant [cancers] and make them sensitive, said one of the researchers, Prof Stephen Taylor.

He added that "new inhibitors would essentially soften-up the cancer cells so when they are treated they are more likely to die."

The team want to test their approach on samples of a patient's cancer as well as in animals studies.

Researchers, while acknowledging the new find has the potential to improve treatment for thousands of cancer patients, however expressed concern that it would also make healthy tissue more vulnerable and increase the risks of side effects.

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