From the blog

Mesothelioma Chemotherapy Resistance Could be Due to Cell Hibernation

Published: January 15, 2021

Canadian researchers have discovered a cause of chemotherapy resistance in mesothelioma and other cancers. This is great news because this can lead to new treatments being created to combat the incurable cancer. There are other types of treatments approved for mesothelioma, but they might not work and chemotherapy could be the best option. The Canadian researchers believe that cancer cells hibernate to prevent themselves from dying. Now that doctors know that cells can do this, they can find new ways to treat and kill cancer cells.

Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer resulting from asbestos exposure. When microscopic asbestos fibers are inhaled, they can become lodged in people’s lungs and mesothelial tissue. This can lead to inflammation and DNA changes, turning the cells into cancer. When patients undergo chemotherapy, it may seem to be working at first but a few months after the treatment starts, the cancer begins to grow again. This can happen with other cancers, and researchers are now figuring out why this may be the case.

The research may not have been done on mesothelioma, but the research can be applied to mesothelioma and other types of cancer. Colorectal cancer cells were studied and the researchers were able to find that the cancer cells were able to hibernate and wait for the chemotherapy to leave the system. The researchers called this the drug-tolerant persister phase. All cancer cells, not just a small portion, are able to enter this phase. This is similar to diapause, where embryos of certain animals grow slower if environmental conditions are not good for their birth. Cancer cells in this phase do not grow or need a lot of nutrition. They eat their own proteins and cell parts, which is called autophagy. When the researchers interrupted the drug-tolerant persister phase, they were able to stop the chemotherapy resistance. If mesothelioma researchers utilize this information, they could potentially make chemotherapy more effective against mesothelioma.

The next thing that needs to be done is validation of the research with a larger study. Studies like this are important for finding new treatments that can help extend patients’ lives. Without these studies, people living with mesothelioma would not be living as long as they are now.

Paul Ratner, “Cancer cells hibernate to survive chemotherapy, finds study” Big Think (January 12, 2021). [Link]
Sumaiyah K Rehman et al., “Colorectal Cancer Cells Enter a Diapause-like DTP State to Survive Chemotherapy” Cell (January 7, 2021). [Link]
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