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UNC researchers show cancer chemotherapy accelerates 'molecular aging'
Date:3/28/2014

Physicians have long suspected that chemotherapy can accelerate the aging process in patients treated for cancer. Using a test developed at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center to determine molecular aging, UNC oncologists have directly measured the impact of anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs on biological aging.

Researchers measured the level of p16, a protein that causes cellular aging, in the blood of 33 women over the age of 50 who had undergone chemotherapy for curable breast cancer. Samples were taken for analysis of molecular age from patients before chemotherapy, immediately following chemotherapy and a year after therapy finished. The analysis showed that curative chemotherapy also caused an increase in a patient's molecular age that on average was equivalent to 15 years of normal aging. The same was true in a separate group of 176 breast cancer survivors who had received chemotherapy on average three and a half years prior.

The study, headed by Hanna Sanoff, MD, MPH, assistant professor with the UNC School of Medicine and member of UNC Lineberger, is published in this week's Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Sanoff said that the results indicate that the p16 test holds promise as a means of evaluating how chemotherapy will affect a patient's long-term health and survival and as a predictive biomarker for the long-term toxicity of chemotherapy.

"Our theory is that if you have an advanced molecular age to begin with, it will be harder for you to tolerate chemotherapy," said Dr. Sanoff. "We believe a high level of p16 before treatment could mean that a patient will have a harder time making new blood cells after each chemotherapy treatment, and therefore be at greater risk for anemia and infection during chemotherapy."

The key role of p16 in human aging has been established over the last decade in the lab of UNC Lineberger Director Dr. Norman Sharpless. Research conducted in Sharpless' lab
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Contact: William Davis
william_davis@med.unc.edu
919-966-5906
University of North Carolina Health Care
Source:Eurekalert  

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