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Leading world researchers from the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York have found that botox, the injection renowned for providing the rich and famous with flawless, ageless skin, can be used as a treatment for stomach cancer.
The rejuvenating anti-wrinkle treatment has found to be effective at slowing tumour growth within stomach cancer patients by blocking nerve signals that stimulate the cancer stem cells. It prevents the nerve cells in and around the tumour from releasing a chemical signal called acetylocholine. In the orthodox practice of the injection, Botox blocks acetylocholine which helps reduce wrinkles by temporarily paralysing face muscles. Acetylocholine has also been linked to stimulating cell division, so using it to prevent and suppress stomach cancer tumour growth makes sense.
Botox is made from the toxin botulism bacteria, and have proved to be ‘highly effective’ at preventing and suppressing stomach cancer within mice in a clinical trial – results which have led to the launch of an early clinical trial for humans with stomach cancer in Norway.
Botox mirrors the effect of ‘vagotomy’, the surgical removal of the branches of the gastric vagus nerve which helps regulate processes linked to digestion.
Head scientists, Dr Timothy Wang said: “Scientists have long observed that human and mouse cancers contain a lot of nerves in and around the tumours cells. We wanted to understand more about the role of nerves in the initiation and growth of cancer, by focusing on stomach cancer. We found that blocking the nerve signals makes the cancer cells more vulnerable – it removes one of the key factors that regulate their growth.”
Professor Duan Chen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said: “The anti-cancer effects [from using Botox] were remarkable, it actually surprised us. The finding that Botox was highly effective was particularly exciting. We believe this treatment is a good treatment because it can be used locally and it targets the cancer stem cells. The Botox can be injected through gastroscopy (a thin tube passed through the mouth to the stomach) and it only requires the patient to stay in the hospital for a few hours.”
Botox injections are generally considered to be a lot less toxic than most standard cancer treatments, as it causes hardly any side effects and is relatively cheap in comparison.
Combining the nerve-targeting treatment of Botox with traditional chemotherapy may be the newest and most effective approach to fighting stomach cancer. Studies have shown that removing the nerve signals, using treatments such as Botox makes cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs. In mice, the combination of both Botox and chemotherapy boosted stomach cancer survival rates by 35% compared to chemotherapy alone.
“In the future, we’d really like to look at how we can use this method of targeting nerves to stop the growth of more advanced tumours,” said Doctor Wang.
This technique could be more effective than any other cancer treatment for stomach tumours currently on the market and available to the general public, especially in conjunction with a drug which blocks receptors on the surfaces of tumours which are sensitive to the Botox compounds.