The chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, when given to mice, shows signs of impeding the skin disease scleroderma, researchers report. By slowing skin thickening, paclitaxel might offer a treatment for a disease that has defied cure.
Scleroderma results when excess collagen protein accumulates in the skin, rendering it fibrous and inflexible. This toughening can cause pain and disfigurement. In some patients, collagen collects in the blood vessels, heart, or lungs, any of which can be lethally damaged. Scleroderma seems to stem from an immune backlash against the body's own tissues, although what triggers the disease is unclear.