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Researchers Discover New Mechanism Behind Resistance to Cancer Treatment

Finding could lead to development of more effective therapies

The researchers found that fibroblasts (normal, noncancerous cells) when exposed to chemotherapy sustain DNA damage that drives the production of a broad spectrum of growth factors that stimulate cancer growth. Under normal circumstances, fibroblasts help maintain the structural integrity of connective tissue, and they play a critical role in wound healing and collagen production.

Specifically, the researchers found that DNA-damaging cancer treatment coaxes fibroblasts to produce a protein called WNT16B within the tumor microenvironment, and that high levels of this protein enable cancer cells to grow, to invade surrounding tissue, and to resist chemotherapy.

The researchers observed up to 30-fold increases in WNT production. The WNT family of genes and proteins plays an important role in normal development and in the development of some cancers but, until now, was not known to play a significant role in treatment resistance. This discovery suggests that finding a way to block this treatment response in the tumor microenvironment may improve the effectiveness of therapy.

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