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Dying cancer cells, at times, trigger new tumours, say Tata doctors | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: Doctors at Tata Memorial Centre here say they’ve discovered a mechanism for cancer metastasis and developed nutraceutical therapy to minimise its risk. As per their decade-long research published in reputed journals, dying cancer cells release ‘chromosome fragments‘ (chromatin), which, at times, fuse with healthy cells and cause new tumours, reported.
A nutraceutical is a food or food product that provides health benefits beyond basic nutrition, often due to its added bioactive compounds or medicinal properties.
Study reveals chemo, radiotherapy hazards
Although many patients are cured of cancer, our study uncovered a potential risk involved in current cancer treatment practices,” said Dr Indraneel Mittra, who led the research, on Monday. While chemotherapy and radiotherapy kill primary tumour cells, they cause the dying cancer cells to release chromatins — called cfChPs — which could enter healthy cells elsewhere in the body through blood and “cause cancer there”, he said.
Further tests on cfChPs revealed that a nutraceutical made from copper and a plant (grapes or berries) could neturalise them and reduce the risk of metastasis, said former TMC director Dr Rajendra Badwe, who was present at the press conference. TMC has tied up with a nutraceutical manufacturer to make the medicine — which could be prescribed as supportive treatment along with chemotherapy — available in June.

Cancer metastasis has been a topic of intrigue for centuries. “How does cancer spread? There are cases where the cancerous tumour has been removed with treatment, yet the patient dies,” said Dr Mittra. His team injected human breast cancer cells into mice. “We first treated the tumour that developed in the mice, biopsied the brain and found cfChPs of human cancer cells there,” said Dr Mittra.
They conducted various research rounds using surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and found similar results. One arm of the study injected tumour-hit mice with the nutraceutical. “The brain biopsy of these mice revealed lower levels of CfChPs,” he said.
In the last few years, the doctors started studying the effect of the nutraceutical — called R-Cu as it is a combination of grape-extract resveratrol and copper — on humans. In a few patients with oral, blood, stomach and brain cancer, the doctors added R-Cu to the standard treatment with encouraging results.
“We used it in 20 blood cancer patients who developed painful ulcers in their mouths and oesophagus after bone marrow transplant,” said TMC deputy director Dr Navin Khattry. Patients who received R-Cu had fewer ulcers. Similar findings among stomach cancer patients were published in an indexed journal, Medical Oncology in November 2022, he said.
Oral cancer surgeon Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, who tested the medicine in oral cancer patients, said, “Our findings conclude that relatively inexpensive nutraceuticals may be used as adjuncts to chemotherapy to reduce its toxicity.”
The doctors said their findings have important implications for cancer treatment policies. First, clinicians need to consider cfChPs as a potential cause of metastatic cancer spread, rather than metastasis being caused by migrating cancer cells. “Secondly, cancer treatment protocols may need to include agents that deactivate or destroy cfChPs,” said Dr Badwe.

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