Chemotherapy could cause breast cancer to spread and affect a new part of the body, research finds

Commonly prescribed chemo drugs known as paclitaxel and doxorubicin can do more damage than good, new research suggests


                            Chemotherapy could cause breast cancer to spread and affect a new part of the body, research finds

The cure for cancer is one of the challenges faced by modern medical science, and scientists from across countries are at work trying to tame this 'Emperor of maladies".

The slippery nature of the beast can be gauged by the elusiveness of a cure, and even from the fact that even the existing remedies can have adverse effects.

Now a new research says that chemotherapy — one of the major categories of cancer treatment — can actually end up causing breast cancer to spread. 

Chemotherapy is often given to breast cancer patients before surgery in order to help shrink their tumors, making them easier to remove. This is also known as the 'neoadjuvant therapy' which also helps to save healthy breast tissues.

The study conducted by the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research found that chemo drugs — paclitaxel and doxorubicin — can cause proteins to be released and then circulated in the blood until they reach the lungs and trigger cancer in another part of the body. The research led by Professor Michele De Palma blocked paclitaxel and doxorubicin during chemo treatment and found that the cancer did not spread. 

Professor De Palma shared, "In short, our study has identified a new link between chemotherapy and breast cancer metastasis."

"Various monocyte inhibitors have been developed for clinical use, so they may be tested in combination with neoadjuvant chemotherapy to potentially limit unwanted side effects mediated by exosomes," he continued.

(Source: iStock)
(Source: iStock)

According to the statistics, breast cancer tends to affect one in around eight women in both the UK and US.

While working with experimental tumor models, the researchers found that both paclitaxel and doxorubicin tend to cause the breast cancer cells to release small fluid-filled sacs known as exosomes. 

Chemo is responsible for making these exosomes which contain the protein  annexin-A6 which is not found in sacs released from untreated tumors. 

As reported by DailyMail, study author and postdoctoral researcher Professor Ioanna Keklikoglou said, "It seems that loading of annexin-A6 into exosomes is significantly enhanced in response to chemotherapy." Once the exosomes are released from the tumors, they circulate in the blood until they reach the lungs. 

Upon reaching the lungs, they release annexin-A6 which then stimulates lung cells to release another protein known as CCL2. The CCL2 begins to attract immune cells known as monocytes which help to fight infections. However, the monocytes can also be dangerous and they can fuel and help the survival and growth of cancerous cells in the lung.

(Source: iStock)
(Source: iStock)

The researchers tried to neutralize annexin-A6 or block the monocytes and found that the experimental breast tumor no longer spread.