Fighting cancer with help from the body’s internal clock

bioclock
Image credit: Harry Campbell

Chi Van Dang generally declines to discuss the science that made him famous.

Instead of doing so, Dang [a leading authority on cancer metabolism] uses his soapbox at every research meeting, lecture and blue-ribbon panel to advocate for something else: a simple yet radical tweak to how oncologists administer cancer drugs.

The approach, known as chrono­therapy, involves timing delivery of drugs to minimize side effects while maximizing effectiveness. The idea is to synchronize therapy with the body’s natural 24-hour rhythms — the circadian clock — and striking when cancer cells are most vulnerable or when healthy cells are least sensitive to toxicity (or, ideally, both).

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It is not an entirely new concept. Some trials in the 1980s and 1990s showed dramatic reductions in toxicities and extended survival times among cancer patients who were treated in a clock-optimized fashion. But mostly “it’s just always been on the fringe,” says Dang. “There weren’t that many card-carrying cancer biologists like me getting into it.”

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Until now.

Researchers are finding new ways to administer old drugs and they are devising clever tactics for rewiring aberrant clocks. … Last year, the NCI — the largest funder of cancer research in the world — put out a call for grant applications from scientists seeking to understand how circadian processes affect tumor development and the responses of patients to therapy.

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Read full, original post: How to ruin cancer’s day

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