Researchers uncover reason behind chemotherapy failure

The find could explain why treatment of pancreatic cancer proves unsuccessful when using the drug gemcitabine.

The discovery came after Ravid Straussman and his team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel were investigating why healthy cells become, in a word, accomplices to cancer cells in aiding drug resistance. The scientists uncovered problems in explaining why one group of skin cells prevented gemcitabine from killing other cancer cells.

When researched further, the team found that bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella destroy gemcitabine by producing a long-form of an enzyme named cytidine deaminase.      

2674 bacteria samples were subsequently tested. 11% of the samples were found to be able to create the long form of enzyme.

Straussman showed that by using anti-biotics the bacteria with the long form enzyme was unable to destroy the gemcitabine. He said of the research:

“We believe there may be better approaches, such as developing drugs to specifically block the activity of the enzyme that destroys gemcitabine. This would minimise the effect of the bacteria without risking generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

Before adding his team are now investigating if bacteria might prevent other types of anticancer drugs – “We don’t think our gemcitabine discovery is an isolated phenomenon,” he says.

Speaking on the research, Yi Xu of the Health Science Centre, said:

“Using antibiotics alongside standard cancer drugs certainly deserves further investigation. Treatment of cancer in the future should take into consideration the bacterial characteristics of the patients.”

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