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Chemo drug drives growth of some tumors

Ovarian cancer stem cells stimulated by common treatment

Chemotherapy drugs designed to kill tumors may actually encourage ovarian cancer by stimulating the growth of cells that give rise to the malignancy, a new study finds.

“It was quite a surprise, actually, that chemotherapy could stimulate growth,” says Kenneth Nephew, a cancer biologist at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Bloomington, who was not involved in the new work. “When clinicians see this paper it may raise a few eyebrows.”

Researchers led by Patricia Donahoe and Xiaolong Wei of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that the common chemotherapy agent doxorubicin actually encourages the growth of ovarian cancer stem cells. The immature cells make up less than 1 percent of an ovarian cancer, but just a few left behind after surgery can reestablish a tumor.

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