According to the National Cancer Institute, 11,000 people in the United States will die this year from stomach cancer. Stomach cancer is also known as gastric cancer. It can be very difficult to treat because it is usually “silent” which means that is usually isn’t diagnosed until it is so advanced that patients need extensive surgery or chemotherapy.
Researchers are conducting studies on mice to test to see if the use of Botox can be used to fight stomach cancer by silencing the nerves that connect to tumors. The study is currently in its very early stages. Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society cautions, “It would be inappropriate to pursue this treatment outside of a clinical trial. Remember that this is a mouse experiment. These types of experiments have been done for decades and the actual translation into benefiting patients in uncommon.”
Experts believe that nerves are crucial to tumor growth, but the role that they play is not known. Researchers in this study try to silence the nerves that connect to the stomach and seem to support tumors. The researchers studied mice with a rough equivalent of human stomach cancer. They tried several approaches to silence the nerves to the tumors, including cutting nerves on the stomach or paralyzing them with injections of Botox.
Study results showed that the two treatments reduced the number of tumors and their progression while boosting survival and the effects of chemotherapy. Dr. Timothy Wang, study co-author and professor of medicine and chief of digestive and liver diseases at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, explains that these findings show that “nerves are very important in the development and formation of many organ systems and likely play a very important role in the early growth and spread of tumors.