Botox isn't just about looking good. A new study shows that it may help fight cancer.
The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, shows that cancer growth can be suppressed by cutting the signals from the nerves linked to the cancer cells. While physically cutting the nerve didn't seem like a good option, using Botox made the treatment cheap, safe and efficient.
The procedure has been tested in mice and is in the process of being tested on humans.
"This study shows that nerves control cancer stem cells," said Duan Chen, one of the co-authors of the study. "We found that by removing the effect of the nerve, the stem cells in the cancer tumor are suppressed, learning to cancer treatment and prevention"
It is known that the nervous system is important for regulating any of the body's organs. But Chen and his co-author Timothy Wang have found that the vagal nerve influences the growth of gastric tumors and that by stopping the nerve signal, the tumor's growth is stopped as well.
In their attempts to cut the nerve's signal, they used four different techniques. Their first technique was to cut the gastric vagus nerve surgically. Their second method was to locally inject Botox to block the release of neurotransmitter from the nerve. Then they tried to give a drug that would block the neurotransmitter's receptor. Finally, they knocked out the receptor gene. All four methods worked.
Though Botox's claim to fame is as a beauty treatment, it is also used to treat several medical conditions.
Botox works by preventing the release of acetylcholine. In beauty treatments, this lessens facial wrinkles by temporarily paralyzing the muscles. Acetylcholine also stimulates cell division, so the prevention of acetylcholine release could help slow cancer growth.
Wang noted, however, that it would be a long time before Botox was considered a treatment for stomach cancer.
"With everything new in cancer, even if it looks great, when you start to roll it out to patients it always seems cancer is smarter than we are," Wang said. "Tumours have the ability to out-evolve any single agent, knocking one leg of a stool is probably not going to topple it. But I think this has a lot of potential and in a decade or two I can see these pathways being targeted."