A study has put forward a startling finding that while chemotherapy does shrink size of cancer tumors, it may actually be paving way for spread of cancer cells.
According to researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, chemotherapy could allow cancer to spread, and trigger more aggressive tumours. The study found that chemotherapy increases the chance of cancer cells migrating to other parts of the body, where they are almost always lethal.
Around 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain every year and 11,000 will die from their illness. Many are given chemotherapy before surgery, but the new study suggests that, although it shrinks tumours in the short term, it could trigger the spread of cancer cells. It is thought the toxic medication switches on a repair mechanism in the body which ultimately allows tumours to grow back stronger. It also increases the number of ‘doorways’ on blood vessels which allow cancer to spread throughout the body.
The study’s lead author Dr George Karagiannis told The Telegraph the findings did not mean cancer patients should avoid chemotherapy, but rather they should be monitored to check if the disease was spreading.
“One approach would be to obtain a small amount of tumour tissue after a few doses of preoperative chemotherapy.”
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.