(RxWiki News) Cancer tumors create their own network of blood vessels to stay alive. Scientists have found a way to use this network to enhance the effects of cancer treatments.
Injecting animal tumors with the neurotransmitter dopamine has been shown to improve the delivery and effectiveness of anticancer drugs. The dopamine also increases oxygen levels in the tumor, which usually improves the effectiveness of both chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy.
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These are the findings of a study conducted at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Lead investigator Dr. Sujit Basu says the use of dopamine may hold promise in treating not only cancer, but other conditions in which normalizing blood vessel function could improve treatment response.
Tumors develop blood vessels, but they don't do a very good job of supplying blood to the tumor. This in turn limits the ability of chemotherapy drugs to be delivered to the tumor and deprives the mass of oxygen. Tumor cells that don't have adequate oxygen become resistant to both drugs and radiation.
Dr. Basu and his colleagues found that the tumor tissue used in the study lacked dopamine. When the tissue was treated with the neurotransmitter, the tumor blood vessels regained normal appearance and function.
Mice model human colon cancer tumors injected with dopamine accumulated twice the amount of chemotherapy drug administered and were one-third the size of tumors treated with the chemotherapy agent only.
"Overall, our findings suggest that the normalization of tumor blood vessels using the neurotransmitter dopamine might be an important approach for improving therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of cancer patients," said Basu, associate professor of pathology and a researcher in the OSUCCC – James Experimental Therapeutics Program.
Findings from this study are published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.