Cancer cure 'may live in the gut'

01 August 2013

Scientists believe it may one day be possible to help the body tolerate lethal doses of cancer treatment by ensuring the gastrointestinal tract remains healthy and functioning.

At present, high doses of chemotherapy and radiation tend to be avoided as they may do more harm than good, causing irreparable damage to patients' healthy tissue before destroying the tumour they are supposed to target.

However, research by scientists at the University of Michigan - published in the prestigious journal Nature - suggests that it may be possible to improve chances of survival by protecting the gastrointestinal tract so that the body is still able to be nourished.

The team found that by causing certain proteins to bind with molecules on intestinal stem cells in mice, they were able to boost the cells' healing effect on the gastrointestinal tract, thus helping to overcome the damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation.

"It's our belief that this could eventually cure later-staged metastasised cancer," said Dr Jian-Guo Geng, associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

He added: "Years down the road, we may have a way to make humans tolerate lethal doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy."

Posted by Philip Briggs

 

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