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Aussie scientists uncover how cancer cells resist chemotherapy

Experts can now focus on developing drugs that work with current chemo treatments to overcome cancer-cell resistance. (Bernama pic)

SYDNEY: Scientists from the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, have revealed how cancer cells circumvent a common cancer therapy, Xinhua reported yesterday.

The study, published recently in the journal Current Biology, showed that cancer cells can activate a “force-generating rescue mechanism” to stabilise an essential structure responsible for cell division and resist the effects of chemotherapy.

Peter Gunning, senior author of the study and professor at UNSW, said cancer cells use this mechanical force to overcome the impact of commonly used chemotherapy.

“Now that we understand this exact pathway cancer cells use to avoid the effects of chemotherapy, it opens the door to improving cancer treatments,” he said.

During cell division or mitosis, microtubules inside cells help in the separation of genetic material. Cancer cells divide more rapidly than normal ones, making them targets for chemotherapy drugs, which disrupt these microtubules.

Gunning said high doses of chemotherapy effectively induce cell death by causing chaos in chromosome separation. But at lower doses, cancer cells can start a rescue mechanism.

This mechanism involves the cancer cells recognising disrupted microtubules and activating a process to reconnect these fragments, ensuring cancer-cell multiplication.

For their next step, researchers will focus on developing drugs that work in combination with current chemotherapy to overcome the cancer-cell resistance mechanism.

“By attacking the force-generating machinery built by the cancer cells, we expect that we will be able to allow the cancer therapy to do its job much more effectively,” Gunning said.

Before testing on patients, however, these drugs will undergo refinement in animal models and preclinical studies.