Method found to make tumors easier to kill

ST. LOUIS (UPI) — U.S. medical scientists have found a vulnerability they say can be used to make cancer cells easier to heat and radiate and, therefore, easier to destroy. Washington University School of Medicine radiation oncology researchers found tumors have a built-in mechanism that protects them from hyperthermia, or heat, and most likely decreases the benefit of hyperthermia and radiation as a combined therapy.

The scientists found if they interfered with that protection, tumor cells grown in culture could be made more sensitive to hyperthermia-enhanced radiation therapy, a mainstay of cancer treatment. “Past research has shown that hyperthermia is one of the most potent ways to increase cell-killing by radiation,” said senior author Associate Professor Tej Pandita.

“But now we’ve found that heat also enhances the activity of an enzyme called telomerase in cancer cells. Telomerase helps protect the cells from stress-induced damage and allows some of them to survive.

“We used compounds that inhibit telomerase and showed that cancer cells then become easier to destroy with hyperthermia and radiation used in combination,” he added. The findings are reported in the journal Cancer Research.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International
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