The test that reveals the future side effects of chemotherapy

Summary:Could a new test predict how your body will react to chemotherapy?

The after-effects of cancer treatment including chemotherapy are often less than pleasant, but could a new test predict how your body will react to such treatment?

New research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that by monitoring enzyme levels in patients, doctors could predict how healthy cells will react to -- and whether they survive -- chemotherapy.

The researchers focused on powerful drugs used to treat cancer known as alkylating agents, which damage DNA by attaching molecules containing carbon atoms to it, and also kill cancer cells in the process. The study shows that the amount of damage done to healthy cells is linked to the presence of an enzyme called Aag, which is able to repair DNA.

See also: Can big data help fight cancer?

In the paper, the researchers explain how they engineered mice to produce different levels of Aag to better represent a human body's levels. When treated with alkylating agents, mice with high or "normal" levels of the DNA-repair enzyme showed greater levels of cell death in many types of tissue.

"It's counterintuitive that extra DNA-repair capacity, or even the normal level, is bad for you," said Leona Samson, who is a professor of biological engineering and biology at MIT. "It seems that you can have too much of a good thing."

Be that as it may, being able to measure levels of enzymes before chemotherapy could be useful not only to predict and limit side effects, but make drugs more effective on cancerous cells. Samson commented:

"Aag is just one of many enzymes that you'd probably want to know the level of, and in the end make some kind of matrix to determine what the therapeutic window would be. We're trying to develop ways of measuring the activity of a whole battery of different DNA repair pathways in one mega-assay."

The new paper appears in the April 4 issue of the journal PLoS Genetics.

Via: MIT

Image credit: Flickr

Related:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.