Duke Experiments Boost Radiation's Cancer-Killing Effects

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Cancer Treatment and Radiation Therapy

Scientists have shown they can dramatically enhance radiation's cancer-killing effects by blocking a "master switch" in cancer cells that promotes cancer growth. Blocking a protein called HIF-1 after radiation therapy doubled the length of time it took for human cancers to begin growing again in mice, said the radiation biologists from the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Each therapy alone had limited or no benefit on the tumor, because tumors are skilled at circumventing individual therapies and finding new ways to grow. But together, the two therapies more potently inhibited a tumor's ability to sustain and nourish itself by growing new blood vessels around the tumor.

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Most importantly, the scientists clarified how this master switch, Hypoxia Inducible Factor or HIF-1, promotes a cancer cell's ability to grow, nourish, energize and develop blood vessels that support its growth. The answers they yielded are complex, yet promising, for the future treatment of cancer patients, said Mark Dewhirst, Ph.D., DVM, professor of radiation oncology at Duke.

Results of the research, led by Dewhirst and conducted by M.D./Ph.D. candidate Ben Moeller, will be published in the August 15, 2005, issue of Cancer Cell.

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