Paclitaxel, the drug used in most cancer treatments was recently found to have an ironic side effect. This anti-cancer medication has been the frontline in helping cancer patients. But as it turns out, it also has some negative consequences.
Professor Tsonwin Hai of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State University in Columbus, along with his team of scientists, discovered an adverse effect of paclitaxel. It would seem that this drug could cause the spread of some variety of cancer cells, particularly of breast cancers’.
This devastating discovery has lead Hai and his team to investigate the matter further. Their recent testing involved rodents and some data from previous cancer patients. They found out that chemotherapy drug paclitaxel triggers the implication of a gene called ATF3.
The ATF3 Effect
ATF3 activates when physiological stress induced through a patient’s tissue. In this case, the chemotherapy is the one that administers the stress.
That type of gene is known for signaling regeneration by sending out information through the nervous system to the brain. As a result, the body reacts to the stressed tissue and eventually heals it.
But with cancer patients that undergo chemotherapy with paclitaxel, the drug activates the gene and works in two ways. ATF3 helps with the distribution of the cancer cells and at the same time, cause an adverse effect on the lung tissue. The stress that the ATF3 gene brings makes the lung area viable for cancer cells to thrive.
The recent result regarding ATF3 enforces the earlier findings that scientists have on the said the gene. Still, the professor noted that there is still a lot to understand about the pro-cancer protein. What they found is still in early stage, and there could be a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Despite the increasingly positive results that chemotherapy has had for the past few years, there still a lot of needed data to perfect the procedure.
Paradoxically, finding out that chemotherapy can also cause cancer as it also cures them is not surprising after all. There is still a great portion of it that remains beyond the present science can comprehend, the professor added.
At this point, Hai’s team could be well misunderstanding what their recent discovery means. The effect that cancer cells spread into the blood could be just an active process due to change of environment.
Chemotherapy is intended to kill these malignant cells and therefore, it could be that it is just their defense mechanism. And the ATF3 effect could just be collateral along the process.
What Is Paclitaxel?
Paclitaxel or commonly known as Taxol in brand names is a compound extract from Pacific Yew tree Taxus brevifolia. It is a microtubule inhibitor that stops any cells from reproducing and ultimately suppresses it from further functioning. Thus, cancer patients suffer hair loss, numbness, diarrhea, muscle pains and more.
Hai’s team is hopeful that they will find a way to eliminate the negative effects of paclitaxel in the future. Or perhaps help other researchers develop a way to improve the use of paclitaxel and finally cure cancer without the adverse side effects.