Surviving Lethal Chemotherapy by Boosting Stem Cell Activity

Increasing chemotherapy tolerance, so as to allow greater harm to be caused to cancerous tumors while the patient still survives the treatment, is a strategy that will be eclipsed by the next generation of cancer therapies. They will target cancer cells and have few to no side effects, and will certainly not be a case of flooding the body with poisons that are just a little more toxic to cancer than to the rest of the patient's cells. So the discovery made by these researchers will, I think, be something that finds application in regenerative medicine instead: a way to greatly boost stem cell activity in specific tissues should have many uses.

Treating a cancerous tumor is like watering a houseplant with a fire hose - too much water kills the plant, just as too much chemotherapy and radiation kills the patient before it kills the tumor. However, if the patient's gastrointestinal tract remains healthy and functioning, the patient's chances of survival increase exponentially. Recently, [researchers] discovered a biological mechanism that preserves the gastrointestinal tracts in mice who were delivered lethal doses of chemotherapy.

"It's our belief that this could eventually cure later-staged metastasized cancer. People will not die from cancer, if our prediction is true. All tumors from different tissues and organs can be killed by high doses of chemotherapy and radiation, but the current challenge for treating the later-staged metastasized cancer is that you actually kill the patient before you kill the tumor."

[Researchers] found that when certain proteins bind with a specific molecule on intestinal stem cells, it revs intestinal stem cells into overdrive for intestinal regeneration and repair. [Researchers have] worked with these molecules, called R-spondin1 and Slit2, for more than a decade. In the study, 50-to-75 percent of the mice treated with the molecule survived otherwise lethal doses of chemotherapy. All of the mice that did not receive the molecule died. "The next step is to aim for a 100-percent survival rate in mice who are injected with the molecules and receive lethal doses of chemotherapy and radiation."

Stem cells naturally heal damaged organs and tissues, but so-called "normal" amounts of stem cells in the intestine simply cannot keep up with the wreckage left behind by the lethal doses of chemotherapy and radiation required to successfully treat late-stage tumors. However, the phalanx of extra stem cells protect the intestine and gastrointestinal tract, which means the patient can ingest nutrients, the body can perform other critical functions and the bacterial toxins in the intestine are prevented from entering the blood circulation.



You sell current chemotherapies short by saying they are "just a little more toxic to cancer than to the rest of the patient's cells." That is not true. In fact, their toxicity is quite selective toward actively dividing cells. They are not so good at preferentially killing only cancerous actively dividing cells. If you can rescue or replace the most critical non-malignant dividing cells, delivering more of a blow toward the cancerous ones, that seems like a powerful approach to me.

The population of cancer cells in a patient with advanced disease is so high that the polymorphism and genetic mutability of cancer cells will tend to leave at least a few of them outside of any targeting net you might cast. I may agree with you about many of the broad predictions for the future of biotechnology with respect to aging and disease, but you're over-optimistic to think that targeted cancer therapies will have such complete success.

Posted by: José at August 1st, 2013 4:05 PM

Fortunately, there are thousands of natural compounds(not patented drugs) that can selectively kill cancer cells while causing no harm to normal healthy cells. My research has been focused on selenium. Sodium selenite shows great promise as a nontoxic chemotherapeutic agent especially when combined in a cocktail consisting of other mitochondrial ROS inducing agents. Once the profit motive is removed, there will be many different natural, safe and effective protocols for eradicating tumors. The best and most effective strategy for triggering apoptosis in cancerous cells is by causing further mitochondrial damage to already damaged and dysfunctional mitochondria. There are a few metabolic pathways that can be targeted that involve generating excess oxidative stress. Inhibiting FASN is proving to be an excellent target and several natural compounds have been shown to trigger apoptosis selectively by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis. EGCG is one of these molecules.

Cancer is a metabolic disease. Abnormal metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction are common to all forms of cancer. Genetic defects are highly variable and are not the prime drivers of this disease. However, damage to mitochondrial DNA might be an initiating event but not likely to be initiated by damage to nuclear DNA.

So I question the original premise that standard chemotherapy and radiation will persist as the only option for killing cancer cells. The science behind selenium and other natural compounds can not be ignored any longer. Many millions of cancer patients are dying because of a system that has little room for the development of inexpensive, safe and effective medicine based on non-patented nutraceuticals.

Posted by: Mark at August 4th, 2013 11:48 PM

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