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Researchers may have found a way to stop cancer cells from defending themselves against chemotherapy. In a study in mice, blocking a DNA repair pathway prevented cancer cells from surviving or becoming resistant to chemo-treatment.
Professor Graham Walker of the American Cancer Society and Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the main contributors to the new research. Walker previously studied a DNA repair process called translesion synthesis (TLS) that cancer cells use to avoid the damage of chemotherapy.
TLS uses specialized DNA polymerases, which are enzymes that can make copies of DNA. Normal DNA polymerases copy DNA accurately, but TLS polymerases are less accurate. This can lead to "imperfect" DNA which leads to mutations that make cancercells resistant to future treatments.
"Because these TLS DNA polymerases are really error-prone, they are accountable for nearly all of the mutation that is induced by drugs like cisplatin," explains co-senior study author Michael Hemann, an associate professor of biology at MIT.
Cisplatin is a drug that doctors prescribe to treat many forms of cancer. It works by interfering with this DNA repair process to eventually kill off cancer cells. Unfortunately, this drug has a number of side effects, like severe kidney problems, allergic reactions, weakened immune system and hearing loss.
This new study is making this type of treatment more effective and minimizing the negative side effects. The research has identified a new compound that when combined with Cisplatin helps increase the effectiveness of the drug and minimizes the harmful side effects.
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