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article imageBotox could treat cancer

By Tim Sandle     Sep 1, 2014 in Science
New York - Botox, used in millions of face-smoothing procedures by the rich and vain, might also be a new weapon in the fight against cancer, according to a new study.
New research, using mice, indicates that, while nerves encourage the growth of stomach cancers, toxins used to destroy these nerves can stop this growth process and heighten the positive effects of chemotherapy. Specifically, as WebMD points out, the research is an exploration to see what part the vagus nerve plays in stomach cancer development.
The vagus nerve stretches from the brain right down to the digestive system and, when it is cut, tumour growth levels slow down. The research has discovered that Botox use has the same effect. This follows on from the observation that human and mouse cancers contain a lot of nerves in and around the tumour cells.
On this basis, the researchers wished to understand more about the role of nerves in the initiation and growth of cancer, by focusing on stomach cancer. Initial data suggests that by blocking the nerve signals, this makes the cancer cells more vulnerable and this also removes one of the key factors that regulate their growth.
According to the Daily Mail, the research remains at an early stage and it is not yet been shown that Botox injections can represent life-saving intervention. One of the scientists involved in the project, Dr Timothy Wang, told the BBC: "If you just cut nerves is it going to cure cancer? Probably not. At least in early phase, if you [disrupt the nerve] the tumour becomes much more responsive to chemotherapy, so we don't see this as a single cure, but making current and future treatments more effective."
Botox is a trade name for botulinum toxin. This is a protein and neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botox is more commonly used by plastic surgeons for carrying out cosmetic injections. Moreover, Botulism is a rare and often fatal paralytic illness. Clostridium botulinum bacteria, which can appear in rotted, uncooked foods and in soil. Listed as a Tier 1 agent by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the botulinum toxin is also a potential biological weapon.
The study is the result of a transatlantic collaboration involving representatives from New York's Columbia University Medical Centre and Trondheim's Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The findings have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The paper is titled “Denervation suppresses gastric tumorigenesis”.
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