Chemotherapy combats various cancers but sometimes, it comes with a painful price. Of the 400,000 patients who undergo this kind of treatment, up to 40 percent develop a bladder disease called hemorrhagic cystitis.
This condition is characterized by a lower urinary tract infection causing more than just frequent and painful urination. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and severe bleeding, which can potentially lead to death.
To treat hemorrhagic cystitis, physicians normally prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to control the infection. Patients may also be advised to stop chemotherapy.
Existing treatment options are quite limited, but thanks to a parasitic worm known as Schistosoma haematobium, an alternative approach that's more effective may soon be available.
Miracle Protein From Schistosoma Eggs
In a mice experiment, a medical research team led by the Children's National Health System found that by inducing a Schistosoma infestation in the bladder, patients with hemorrhagic cystitis may experience less pain and bleeding.
Although the parasite's eggs can trigger inflammation when they are deposited in the urinary stream or bladder wall, they later produce a protein called S. mansoni IPSE that appears to provide relief for symptoms of the chemotherapy-induced condition.
On a molecular level, the protein bonds with two forms of antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E and mast cells. It also isolates chemokines that are responsible for directing white cells to an infected area.
Parasitic Protein More Effective Than MESNA
Based on the results of their study, a single intravenous dose of S. mansoni IPSE derived from the parasitic worm has a more potent effect than several doses of 2-Mercaptoethane sulfonate sodium (MESNA), the most common drug for bleeding resulting from hemorrhagic cystitis. It also proved to be as strong as MESNA in providing relief for pain associated with chemotherapy.
"This work in an experimental model is the first published report of exploiting an uropathogen-derived host modulatory molecule in a clinically relevant model of bladder disease, and it points to the potential utility of this as an alternate treatment approach," says Michael Hsieh, lead author of the study.
Results and analysis of the mice experiment can be found in a paper published on April 3 by The FASEB Journal.
Cancer Patients At Higher Risk For Hemorrhagic Cystitis
Hemorrhagic cystitis in cancer patients is considered non-infectious. According to Medscape, it is most prevalent among those who have received a bone marrow transplant or pelvic radiation therapy.
In general, anyone who has undergone treatment using cyclophosphamide, ifosfamide, or total-body irradiation are at a higher risk of developing the bladder disease. Patients within this category are advised to educate themselves about the condition and early intervention options.