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Chemo targets cancer cells that were dying anyway

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Chemotherapy may be taking too much of the credit when it ‘beats’ cancer – most of the cancer cells it is targeting were on the verge of self-destruction anyway, researchers have discovered.
At best, the therapy seems to speed the process of self-destruction, known as apoptosis, that every healthy cell is programmed to do. However, cancer cells have forgotten to self-destruct.
Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have discovered that chemotherapy is ineffective when faced with a cancer cell that is not close to apoptosis. They have developed a way of profiling that tells oncologists those patients whose cancer cells are likely to respond to chemotherapy.
But their research leaves open several questions: would those cancer cells that respond to chemotherapy have died naturally anyway, and if chemotherapy merely hastens a natural process, is it worth going through the debilitating effects this deadliest of drugs produce?
(Source: Science, 2011; doi: 10.1126/science.1206727).

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Article Topics: Cancer, chemotherapy, oncology
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