Friday, November 23, 2018

Advances In Cancer Metastasis Research

By Andrew Fox

Cancer that has metastasized is one in which the abnormal cells have spread to distant organs so that they also cause problems in this destination organ. This stage is often referred to as stage four and is inoperable. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are usually of marginal benefit if at all. This story may soon change if the efforts being put in cancer metastasis research bear fruit.

Research has shown that all cancer have their route cause in a genetic abnormality. Such a defect is also referred to as a mutation and often results in loss of cellular growth control. If cells have no limitation in how much they can grow or divide, they keep growing haphazardly leading to formation of various types of tumours. The release of these tumour cells and deposition in various body tissues is what is known as metastasis.

With the understanding of these underlying mechanisms, drug development has taken a different angle; the genetic one. Developers are now looking at ways of preventing the genetic mutations or preparing them if they have already occurred so as to stop the cellular growth that occurs downstream. A study involving the use of a drug called metarrestin is quite promising. In the study mice with pancreatic tumours have been given the drug and its effects observed. There has been a significant shrinkage in the size of tumour cells.

The next phase of the study is to conduct human trials. To facilitate this, a pill with the active molecule has been developed and is awaiting approval by the relevant authorities. While the effects in the human body are not yet known, the drug has showed great promise and is expected to show similar results as those seen in rats. The mechanism of tumour cell killing in rats is destruction of a structure known as perinucleolar compartment. Humans also have this structure within their cell nuclei.

Immunotherapy is a strategy that many scientists have given a serious thought and indeed, followed that with actions. In this form of treatment, various conditions are treated by augmenting the effects of our natural defence mechanisms. A drug known as pembrolizumab is made up of antibodies that are proving to be quite effective in cancer therapy. By destroying the protective mechanisms of tumour cells, this drug makes it possible for these unwanted cells to be destroyed by the immune system.

In the study, pembrolizumab has been given to a number of HIV/AIDS, patients diagnosed with tumours that are either refractory or recurrent. Improved antiretroviral therapy has helped many patients with the disease to have a lifespan that is comparable to that of persons without. However, because of an inherently weakened immune system, they remain susceptible to a number of cancers. The drug is being studied to see whether it can help their immune system fight off these cancers.

The third research that is worth mentioning is one that involves the use of modified stem cells in the delivery of chemotherapy to tumour cells. Stem cells are cells that give rise to other forms of cells. For instance, bone cells arise from bone stem cells. It has been established that these stem cells can be modified in a way that allows them to deliver chemotherapeutic agents to cancer cells. The study is still at The level of animal models but also looks promising.

These are just but few examples of the work that is ongoing in the search for a cure for cancer. Indeed, scientists are a long way off from concluding their work but it appears as if they are headed in the right direction. The important thing is for everyone to remain hopeful in the process and for governments and the private sector to work together and support the scientific community.

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