New Way To Fight Cancer Involves Keeping Cancer Cells Alive


The traditional way of treating cancer patients involves killing as many cancer cells as possible. A new study however, has shown that keeping the cells alive could improve the outcome of treatments.

This new approach was created by US researchers, it is called the adaptive therapy. In opposition to administering as much dose of medication as the patients’ body allows, the Adaptive therapy combats tumors with less doses, while keeping the cells that are resistant to chemotherapy in check. This is done by allowing a living population of cells that react to cancer-killing drugs.

Simply put; instead of trying to kill off as much cancer cells that can be killed, Adaptive therapy aims to have the patient living with the cancer in a stable way that allows for it to be treated continually.

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Oncologist Robert Gatenby from the Moffitt Cancer Centre in Florida explained the purpose of Adaptive Therapy in comparison to the current therapy method saying that;

“[T]here is a natural tendency to use high-dose therapy based on the assumption that each patient receives maximum benefit by killing as many cancer cells as possible,

“However, according to evolutionary principles, high-dose therapy is the least likely to be successful in controlling the tumour for any length of time because it intensely selects for resistant cells and allows them to grow rapidly because the treatment has eliminated all of their competitors.”

This approach has only been tried on mice. The researchers picked mice with two different kinds of cancer; triple-negative and ER+ breast cancer. They first tried the conventional chemotherapy with infusing maximum dosage; the adaptive therapy, lowering doses as the tumor responds (AT–1), and an alternative adaptive therapy, with doses being skipped as the tumor responds (AT–2).

The result which was published in Science Translational Medicine showed that the tumor reduced at first with all three approaches but the cancer regrew when the maximum dosage was stopped and when skipped in AT–2.

However, the Adaptive therapy yielded a more counterweight effect on the tumor. It led to a point where the treatment was able to be withdrawn in most of the animals. The mice also lived longer than those with the other treatments.

The researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to monitor the tumors and their response to the treatment. They also used algorithm to calculate the dosages given to the mice based on the scan data.

The researchers hope to carry out the success of this regimen on a group of people with prostate cancer.

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