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Study finds that carbon monoxide can help shrink tumors and amplify effectiveness of chemotherapy
Date:12/4/2013

BOSTON -- In recent years, research has suggested that carbon monoxide, the highly toxic gas emitted from auto exhausts and faulty heating systems, can be used to treat certain inflammatory medical conditions. Now a study led by a research team at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) shows for the first time that carbon monoxide may also have a role to play in treating cancer.

The surprising new findings, described in the December issue of the journal Cancer Research, show that in cell culture and animal models carbon monoxide (CO) can both prevent tumor growth in prostate and lung cancers and can amplify the effectiveness of chemotherapy 1,000-fold while sparing noncancerous tissue from chemo's sometimes debilitating side effects.

"We found that in small, carefully controlled doses, CO not only mimicked the effects of chemotherapy agents by blocking proliferation of cancer cells, but also amplified the toxic effects of the chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin and camptothecin to accelerate cancer cell death," says senior author Leo Otterbein, PhD, an investigator in the Transplant Institute in BIDMC's Department of Surgery and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. "Importantly and rather unique is that CO also helped to protect normal tissue from chemotherapy, which is an unfortunate side effect of the treatments."

The new discovery appears to hinge on CO's ability to switch the metabolic state of cancer cells so that tumors essentially work themselves to death. "There are fundamental differences in the metabolism of normal cells and cancer cells," explains Otterbein. "Cancer cells are able to alter their metabolism in processing sugars and other energy sources, which enable them to rapidly proliferate and spread. This shift in metabolism is known as the Warburg Effect. Our findings indicate that CO essentially induces an 'anti-Warburg' effect, rapidly fueling cancer cell bioenergetics by compelling th
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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