Can Chemotherapy Side Effects be Reduced During Treatment?

New approach seeks to lessen resistance to cancer drugs while mitigating adverse events.

New approach seeks to lessen resistance to cancer drugs while mitigating adverse events.

A new concept in the treatment of cancer seeks to reduce the harmful side effects produced by many cancer drugs.

For the treatment of of epithelial cancer, specifically head and neck cancer, researchers at Oregon State University used a pair of promising analogs from an older compound previously evaluated as a potent anti-tumor agent, but discarded because of significant toxicity.

The analogs were found to be more highly selective than parent compound pactamycin, which has been found to kill all cells by inhibiting protein synthesis. These pactamycin analogs seek to put cancer cells to sleep, instead of killing them.

Published in PLOS One, the study evaluated the effects of pactamycin analogs TM-025 and TM-026 in head and neck cancer cell lines, however the analogs may have applications across a wider range of cancers, specifically melanoma, the study found.

"A traditional view of chemotherapy is that you try to completely kill cancer cells and destroy tumors," lead author Arup Indra said in a press release. "Sometimes this is effective, sometimes not as much. An alternative approach is to cause rapid cell aging and induce premature senescence, which we believe could become a new frontier in cancer drug development."

The aging of cancer cells doesn't cause them to die, but the growth of larger tumors is slowed or stops altogether, which causes it to live in a vegetative state. This presents an alternative means to control the disease without killing it, which may decrease resistance problems that can quickly develop from chemotherapeutic drugs.

Additionally, the approach avoids some of the more toxic side effects from many cancer chemotherapies, which are frequently caused by cell death. These findings indicate the pactamycin analogs largely blocked the proliferation and growth of cancer cells, causing them to age and lose the ability to divide and grow, which is partly mediated by the tumor suppressor p53.

"With further research we hope to create a nontoxic nanocarrier that could provide targeted delivery of the TM-025 and TM-026 analogs specifically to cancer cells," corresponding author Gitali Indra said in a press release. "In some cases, such as oral cancer, it may also be possible to use topical treatments. But this approach should have significant promise if we can develop techniques to adequately target the cancer cells."