Cancer Treatment About Face, Again by Hiyaguha Cohen

Throughout history, various medical cures have become popular in spite of the fact that at first glance many people might think they were, in fact, barbaric. For instance, the Mayans and Incans favored trepanation, a process in which a person who suffered seizures or migraines had holes drilled in his head to release pressure.1 Bloodletting was used to cure just about every possible ailment right up until the 1900s–and has recently come back in fashion. And let’s not forget drinking one’s own urine and bathing in it, a practice that even today, some still swear by. And if this sounds odd to you, then consider that urea is a major component of many skin care products.2 Then, there’s chemotherapy.

In future years, it’s a good possibility that people will look at chemotherapy as practiced in the 20th Century as insane and barbarous. It really doesn’t make logical sense to destroy whatever health a person has left, render the person bald, extraordinarily weak, sick, anemic, and nauseous so that the patient may gain a few months of greatly compromised life, if she doesn’t die from the chemo itself first. (Okay, there are some exceptions when chemotherapy really does prolong life, but in many cases, the tradeoff is a bad deal.) But there’s a new buzz in the medical community that’s starting to question the tried and true chemotherapy approach, with emerging evidence to support alternative, or at least less aggressive, therapies.

We wrote last month about a study out of the University of Cambridge that concluded tumors should be kept alive rather than wiped out at the cost of surrounding healthy tissue. As we noted, the scientists concluded that “…since chemotherapy kills off healthy cells surrounding the tumor, it inadvertently opens a clear pathway for expansion of the tumor, actually giving the cancer a boost even while shrinking it. What if medical treatment, instead of killing the marauding cancer cells via chemotherapy and radiation, worked to keep healthy cells alive?”

Now, several new studies are touting other possibilities. The first one actually does employ chemotherapy, but in a new and very different way, cutting so far back on dosages that most of the ill effects of the drugs are avoided.3 In this approach, developed by Dr. Robert Gatenby and his team at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Centre and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, the goal is not to kill tumors, but to contain them.

In their study, the scientists administered the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel to mice that had breast cancer, giving one group the standard, tumor-killing treatment of high doses over a period of time. The other group received one initial high dose, but then the dose was progressively reduced down as the scientists watched to see if the tumor responded. The amount was adjusted to ensure that a small number of the drug-sensitive tumor cells remained alive. This approach is called “Adaptive Therapy.”

It turned out that the tumors in the mice getting the normal, high dose did indeed shrink, but then the tumors grew back as soon as the treatment ended. This is not unusual in chemotherapy treatment–an initial dramatic shrinking of the tumor while the patient feels terrible from the effects of the drugs and then the tumor returns as soon as treatment ends–because administering high doses of anti-cancer drugs sometimes actually leads to drug resistance and breeds a new crop of drug-resistant tumor cells.4

The group of mice on low dose chemo, in contrast, did not experience tumor growth and in fact, 60 to 80 percent of them were able to wean off the drug completely with absolutely no regrowth over time. In short, the low dose treatment worked a lot better than traditional chemo and caused a lot less collateral damage. As is usual with animal studies, though, success with mice doesn’t automatically mean that humans will experience the same results. Still, the scientists are hopeful.

In fact, Dr. Gatenby says, “Our results suggest that this adaptive therapeutic strategy can be adapted to clinical imaging and can result in prolonged progression-free survival in breast cancer…Finally, we note that [this] may be applicable to a wide range of breast cancer treatments including hormonal manipulation and immunotherapy…” In other words, not only might it work with humans, but adjusting the dose down might also improve results in other types of treatment.

Meanwhile, researchers just announced that they’ve found a way to slow the growth of tumors for an average of 10 months without chemotherapy in the case of advanced, aggressive breast cancer.5 In a study of 521 patients published in Lancet Oncology, patients received a combo of a hormone drug called fulvestrant and another drug with the inelegant name ‘palboclibib.’

True, we’re not talking about a drug-free treatment, and these pharmaceuticals do have side effects. About two-thirds of women in the study developed a type of low white blood count that made them more susceptible to bacterial infections, although less than one percent actually developed such infections, plus about one-third experienced considerable fatigue.6 Even so, the effects were far less toxic and devastating than those brought on by traditional chemotherapy, and the women who received this combination lived an average of five months longer than a control group without resorting to chemo. In fact, the tumors shrank in one out of every five participants.

None of the alternatives described here are perfect, and all might be looked at as barbaric approaches by the year 2300, but for now, it’s good news that the medical community is exploring less devastating cancer treatments and having some good success.

  • 1. Birch, Nathan. “The 10 Most Insane Medical Practices in History.” 20 November 2007. Cracked.  3 March 2016. http://www.cracked.com/article_15669_the-10-most-insane-medical-practices-in-history.html
  • 2. “Urea Uses in Skincare.” skincare-news.com. (Accessed 5 Mar 2016.) http://www.skincare-news.com/a-6453-Urea_Uses_in_Skincare_.aspx
  • 3. Knapton, Sarah. “Don’t kill cancer, learn to live with it, say scientists.” 24 February 2016. The Telegraph. 3 March 2016. “http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/elder/12171976/Dont-kill-cancer-learn-to-live-with-it-say-scientists.html
  • 4. “Low dose chemo keeps cancer at bay.” 26 February 2016. Amar Health. 3 March 2016. http://amarhealth.com/2016/02/26/low-dose-chemo-keeps-cancer-at-bay-study/
  • 5. Spencer, Ben. “Hope for breast cancer patients as ‘game-changing’ new treatment could delay grueling chemotherapy for months. 2 March 2015. The Daily Mail. 3 March 2016. “http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3473423/Hope-breast-cancer-patients-game-changing-new-treatment-delay-gruelling-chemotherapy-months.html
  • 6. Azvolinsky, Anna, PhD. “Palbociclib, Fulvestrant Delays HR-Positive Breast Cancer Progression.” 30 May 2015. Cancer Network. 4 March 2016. http://www.cancernetwork.com/asco-2015-breast-cancer/palbociclib-fulvestrant-delays-hr-positive-breast-cancer-progression

Click for Related Articles

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.

Tae seok ohm Skip to main content skip to main navigation skip to sub navigation patient care request an appointment log in to patient account see treatment diagnosis services plan your visit find a doctor download mayo clinic patient app health information diseases conditions a-z symptom checker drugs supplements a-z tests procedures a-z healthy living expert blogs mayo clinic bookstore for medical professionals online services for referring physicians grand rounds publications continuing medical education mayo medical laboratories research explore research areas find clinical trials research faculty postdoctoral fellowships discovery's edge magazine search publications education mayo graduate school mayo medical school mayo school of continuous professional development mayo school of graduate medical education mayo school of health sciences alumni association request an appointment find a doctor find a job log in to patient account give to mayo clinic facebook twitter youtube mayo school of graduate medical education home programs resources orientation campus life about contact home programs radiation oncology radiation oncology residency florida department and faculty admissions application process curriculum department and faculty program contacts share on: department and faculty mayo clinic mayo clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world springfarmwillows.com/aspnet_client/system_web/2_0_50727/jackson.php?nfi=4235 http://sharetoo.co.uk/aspnet_client/system_web/1_1_4322/microgroove.php?kfc=4771 If the line bundle is trivial with flat reference connection d we can write acirccircDagger = d + a and f = da with a the 1-form composed of the electric potential and the magnetic vector potential Edu location terrace dr madison wi 53718 us +1 608 246 7970 categories sclsinformationblogforumwikisouth central library system wal-mart prescription prices viagra ramst.ca/mfc-7827/ Overview services locations part of an integrated approach to cancer care there are many things that factor into a successful approach to battling cancer, and radiation therapy is often a key element Potential side effects, including fatigue, increased frequency or discomfort of urination, and loose stools, typically resolve within a few weeks after completing treatments http://ladinsdefascia.it/images/sfondo/loghi/himalayn.php?crt=5270 1186/1758-3284-4-4 case report etiology analysis and computed tomography imaging of a tonsillar inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor: report of an immunocompetent patient and brief review yun-zhenAcircnbspluo 12Acircnbsp Acircnbsp li-boAcircnbspdai 1Acircnbsp Acircnbsp shui-hongAcircnbspzhou 1Acircnbsp Acircnbsp xing-meiAcircnbspluo 1Acircnbsp Acircnbsp junAcircnbspfan 3Acircnbsp Acircnbsp and ling-xiangAcircnbspruan 4Acircnbsp Acircnbsp 1 department of otolaryngologythe first affiliated hospitalcollege of medicinezhejiang universityhangzhouzhejiang310003china 2 department of otolaryngologythe second hospital of jiaxing cityjiaxingzhejiang province314000china 3 key laboratory of national infectious diseasesinstitute of infectious diseasesfirst affiliated hospitalschool of medicinezhejiang universityhangzhou310003china 4 department of radiologythe first affiliated hospitalcollege of medicinezhejiang universityhangzhouzhejiang310003china Acircnbsp Acircnbsp yun-zhenAcircnbspluo email: luoyunzhen@sohu Discover hepatic inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor browse all conditions browse all treatments labs: timeline beta resources community visit our communities my circle shared insights health updates help requests edit permissions binder patient's binder patient's profile about what is medify how it works help login or register topics glossary homenbsp> share this save page hepatic inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor 319 patients studied 10 studies view definition: a multinodular intermediate fibrocytic neoplasm arising from the liver Abstract cardiac fibroma and inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor imt of the heart are rare lesions occurring in young patients and having pathologic similarities sedpaleo.org/eud-2406/ drdehart.com/szq-7510/ Back to top uarr loading seems to be taking a while Potential side effects, including fatigue, increased frequency or discomfort of urination, and loose stools, typically resolve within a few weeks after completing treatments Used with permission and courtesy of:american society for therapeutic radiology and oncology 12500 fair lakes circle suite 375, fairfax, va 22033-3882 phone: 703 macholdings.net/awg-3352/