Botox may help fight cancer

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Tests done on animals have suggested that Botox injections, which are normally used to fight the signs of aging, may help fight cancer.

Research which has been done on mice discovered that the use of the toxin to kill nerves may stop the growth of tumours in the stomach and make them susceptible to chemotherapy.

According to Cancer Research UK, there is no clarity yet as to whether the injections would be able to save lives.

The toxin which disrupts the normal functioning of the nerves causes the muscles to relax and smooth out wrinkles. However, research has shown that nerves are also responsible for the growth of cancer.

Scientists based at Columbia University Medical Centre, New York and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim have done investigations into the role of the vagus nerve, which goes from the brain to the digestive system, in stomach cancer.

They found that using Botox or cutting the nerve slows the growth of tumours or it made them respond better to chemotherapy.

Dr Timothy Wang, one of the scientists involved, said that if you simply cut the nerves, it will probably not cure cancer. He added that during the early phases of their research, they found that if the nerve is disrupted, the tumour appears to respond better to chemotherapy. He said this is not viewed as a single cure, but could be used to make current and future treatments better.

Some human trials have commenced with those who are set to have surgery to remove stomach tumours. Scientists have also done research which suggests that nerves may play a role in prostate cancer as well.

Dr Wang said that there is still a long road ahead before this method could be considered to be an effective treatment. He said that it is often found that any new research which is rolled out to humans is stumped by cancer. He is of the opinion that this research has a lot of potential and maybe in one or two decades it may be targeted.

The senior science communications manager at Cancer Research UK, Eleanor Barrie, said that over the past few years there has been evidence that stomach cancers may be dependent on signals from the nervous system for their growth. She stated that this particular study has added to that evidence, however it is in its early stages of study and it has not yet become clear if it could save lives.

Image Credit: Dr. Braun

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