THD NewsDesk, New Delhi: A new study suggests that the cancer cells can dodge chemotherapy by entering a state that bears similarity to certain kinds of senescence, a type of “active hibernation” which enables them to weather the stress induced by aggressive treatments aimed at destroying them.
The study was led by scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine. These findings have implications for developing new drug combinations that could block senescence and make chemotherapy more effective. Simultaneously, the findings, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, indicated that this biologic process could help explain why cancers so often recur after treatment.
Senior author Ari M. Melnick from Weill Cornell Medicine said “Acute myeloid leukemia can be put into remission with chemotherapy, but it almost always comes back, and when it does its incurable. Therefore, the research was done in both organoids and mouse models made from patients’ samples of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) tumours.”
In the study, the researchers found that when AML cells were exposed to chemotherapy, a subset of the cells went into a state of hibernation, or senescence. They looked similar to cells that have undergone an injury assuming a condition that looked very much like inflammation. So, to promote wound healing, the majority of their functions need to be shut down while recruiting immune cells to nurse them back to health.
The investigators tested this hypothesis in the lab and confirmed that giving leukemia cells an ATR inhibitor before chemotherapy prevented them from entering senescence, thereby allowing chemotherapy to kill all of the cells.
Further research revealed that this inflammatory senescent state was induced by a protein called ATR, suggesting that blocking ATR could be a way to prevent cancer cells from adopting this condition.