Is Senescence Lead Chemotherapy a Possibility of Cancer Treatment Soon
Cancer cells initially affect the healthy cells in a particular location of the body. A chunk of cancer-infected cells is technically called as the tumor. Cells get their instructions to carry out their functions from chemical molecules called genes. In cancer cells induced a special type of viral gene into the healthy cells, called Oncogene. This gene causes the transformation of normal cells into cancerous tumor cells. But this process of conversion commences not before the body’s natural protective system, technically called the immune system, fails in its basic task.
Cancer researchers at the Max Delbrück Center, Berlin, Germany have now shown that there are two protective mechanisms which stop the conversion process of healthy cells to cancerous tumor cells. The findings of the research are of fundamental importance and are published in the journal “Cancer Cell”.
The Cancer Protection Mechanisms – Apoptosis and Senescence:
- Scientists already know that the first protection mechanism against cancer is paradoxically provided by the Oncogenes themselves.
- Sometimes they protect the healthy cells and delay the process of spreading of cancer.
- A special type of oncogene, called the Myc oncogene initiates the process of apoptosis, which is the technical name given to healthy cells committing suicide prematurely.
- In this way, the damaged cells are eliminated from further spreading the disease.
- This mechanism also explains why certain types of cancers take years to reach advanced stage.
- Artificially, the same technique of initiating the apoptosis process of damaged cells is carried out in the cancer treatment process, Chemotherapy.
- The second protection mechanism is called Senescence or the process of aging, not well understood yet by the scientific community.
- This process is initiated by the Res oncogene, which involves stopping the cell cycle, which stops the natural process of cell division too.
- Unlike apoptosis, the cell survives and remains active metabolically here.
- In this way, Senescence blocks the development of cancer tumor right from its initial stage.
Knowledge Gained From Research:
The study, however, revealed that the single oncogene “Myc” can not only initiate apoptosis but also senescence, without the presence of “Res” oncogene. The researchers learnt that Myc oncogene first starts apoptosis. It then interacts with the tissues surrounding a tumour. These tissues are called the stroma and contain some healthy cells too. Seeking the help of these healthy cells, the Myc oncogene interacts with the immune system of the body and commences the process of protecting these healthy cells through senescence process. The process of apoptosis is already in use for treating cancer through chemotherapy. As a result, further research is now focused on developing senescence-led chemotherapy treatment technique.