Cancer: The surprising variable that could impact treatment outcomes

Cancer: The surprising variable that could impact treatment outcomes

GMB tribute to 7-year-old Isla who passed away from cancer

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New research has suggested that administering chemotherapy at night could improve survival rates by up to 20 percent.

The research conducted at WVU examined the way the brain filters toxins differently during the day and night.

The blood-brain barrier reduces the effectiveness of chemotherapy but becomes less active at night.

Moving chemotherapy appointments to specific times of day may improve patient outcomes.

The research was published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology.

“We are not the first ones to show that chrono-chemotherapy is beneficial, but we’re the first to show that it’s beneficial in the treatment of brain metastasis,” said William Walker, postdoctoral fellow and lead author.

“Chrono-chemotherapy has been shown to be beneficial for years – in terms of peripheral cancer – but for some reason, that basic science is not being translated to clinical practice.”

He plans to start his own laboratory following the conclusion of this research, where he can translate his work into improving the treatment outcomes of cancer patients.

The research conducted examined animal models, such as mice and flies.

Further research will be needed to determine whether the blood-brain barrier of humans is also variable dependent on the time of day.

It may also fluctuate differently to the animals, being more receptive at day or night.

“Those are the questions William Walker will be looking into when he leaves this lab and starts his own,” said Professor Randy Nelson, chair of the Department of Neuroscience and mentor to Walker.

The mice in the study were being treated for metastatic breast cancer, which had migrated into the brain.

The mice treated at night suffered fewer symptoms, had a higher survival rate by 20 percent and killed more tumour cells.

Mice are nocturnal, meaning their circadian rhythms may differ from ours.

Other chronic conditions alongside cancer have been identified that respond differently depending on the time of day.

These can also be aggravated by frequent travel across time zones, with the World Health Organisation listing airline pilots and stewards as at greater risk of cancer.

Diabetes researchers writing in the journal Science Advances discovered that while night shift workers are more likely to develop the condition, this was prevented if they kept to a daytime meal plan.

Chronotherapy, the scheduling of treatments to match time daily changes in the body, is a growing field of study.

The 2017 Nobel prize in medicine went to a trio of researchers studying circadian rhythms.

The timekeeping mechanisms of the body also change the behaviour of some cancer cells, and this has led to changes in how they may be treated.

One type of cancer was identified to respond better to treatments given in the middle of the day.

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