-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Research in mice reveals
that a small number of cancer cells escape from chemotherapy by
hiding out in the thymus, the organ where immune cells mature.
While in the thymus, the cancer cells are covered in growth
factors that protect them from the effects of chemotherapy drugs.
These cancer cells later cause tumor relapse, said the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) biologists.
The study findings are published in the Oct. 29 issue of the
The MIT team plans to conduct tests, in mice, of drugs that
interfere with one of those protective growth factors. Using these
drugs in combination with chemotherapy could offer a one-two punch
that eliminates tumor cells and prevents relapse, they suggest.
"Successful cancer therapy needs to involve a component that kills tumor cells as well as a component that blocks pro-survival signals. Current cancer therapies fail to target this survival response," study leader Michael Hemann, an assistant professor of biology, said in an MIT news release.
While he and his colleagues found that cancer cells seek refuge
in the thymus, they believe there may be other places in the body,
such as bone marrow, where cancer cells are protected from
It's not known whether the findings will translate to human
patients, but they do suggest several targets for investigation,
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about
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