'Old' cells linked to drug side effects

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Cancer chemotherapy causes a host of side effects, and a particular group of cells that have stopped dividing could be at the root of this problem.

Chemotherapy drugs cause some healthy cells to stop dividing and become senescent, and such cells are thought to promote ageing. To look for links between these cells and chemotherapy's side effects, Marco Demaria at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, Judith Campisi at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California, and their colleagues studied engineered mice in which senescent cells could be tracked, isolated and eliminated. They exposed animals to four commonly used cancer drugs and found that the drugs caused senescent cells to persist in non-cancerous tissue, and that those cells boosted inflammation. Elimination of the cells after drug treatment reduced several side effects of chemotherapy, improving bone-marrow recovery, decreasing heart dysfunction and lowering the risk of cancer relapse.

Targeting senescent cells could be a way to make chemotherapy more effective and tolerable for patients, the authors say.

Cancer Discov. (2016)

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