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The test that reveals the future side effects of chemotherapy

Posting in Cancer

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

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— By on April 5, 2013, 12:46 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure