Adaptive Therapy gradually conditions a cancer-diagnosed body to survive with lesser dosages of anti-cancer drugs. A gradient from intense chemo to less intense ones can help achieve enduring progression-free survival in breast cancer. Current cancer treatments aim at completely killing tumors and produce best short-term results, but are more likely to cause relapses.
A controversial approach to cancer treatment may be in the offing according to some recent and enlightening research. Managing cancer with low doses of chemotherapy could be more effective than attempting to kill the disease, scientists believe. This novel controversial approach suggests that cancer patients1 may have a better chance of survival if they live with their illness for a long term.
“The potential to reduce gruelling side-effects of chemotherapy, while increasing the treatment’s effectiveness, could dramatically improve the lives of people with breast cancer” – Rachel Rawson, Breast Cancer Care.
Conventional Approach To Cancer Treatment
As reported in the UK Telegraph, current cancer treatments often involve aggressive treatment with high doses of chemotherapy in an attempt to wipe out as many tumour cells as possible. But, complete eradication of cancer2 is rare, and the toxic side effects of chemotherapy can be highly destructive – not only leading to hair loss, nausea and extreme fatigue, but also crippling the body’s immune system or triggering anaemia.
Some experts believe that high-dose chemotherapy may actually worsen cancer by exerting a natural selection pressure that helps the drug-resistant tumour cells to become more abundant, which means if the cancer returns it will be fatal. This is becoming more and more the prevalent thought amongst researchers.
Adaptive Therapy (AT): The New Approach In Fighting Cancer
The new strategy is designed to prevent the drug-resistant tumour cells from getting a handle. Rather than trying to eradicate a tumour3, the treatment stabilizes it by deliberately allowing a small population of drug-sensitive tumour cells to survive.
A team of US scientists led by Dr. Robert Gatenby, from the H Lee Moffitt Cancer Centre and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, conducted tests using the chemotherapy drug ‘paclitaxel’ to treat mice with two different kinds of breast cancer.
Standard chemotherapy initially shrank the mouse tumours, but as soon as the treatment stopped they grew back. However giving an initial high dose followed be regular lower doses controlled the cancer growth. In fact, the treatment was so effective that the majority of the mice were weaned off the drug completely over an extended period of time without suffering relapses.
Writing in the journal Science Translational Medicine, Dr. Gatenby said, “Our results suggest that this adaptive therapeutic strategy can be adapted to clinical imaging and can result in prolonged progression-free survival in breast cancer. Finally, we note that the evolutionary principles that govern AT may be applicable to a wide range of breast cancer treatments including hormonal manipulation and immunotherapy although they will need to undergo further testing in those settings.”
Rachel Rawson, senior clinical nurse specialist at the charity Breast Cancer Care, said the proposed treatment was an exciting avenue to explore! “However, there remains a long road from this study on mice to any potential changes in clinical practice. And we want to reassure anyone concerned, the treatment currently out there has been successfully demonstrated in trials of thousands of patients.”