Treatment of cancer on young patients accelerate aging process, study says

A latest study examines the effects of cancer and its treatment on the aging process and finds that the expression of a gene associated with aging is higher in young patients with cancer after treatment with chemotherapy and in young cancer survivors who are weak.

The research findings are published prior online in CANCER, a peer reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Earlier research has shown that a protein called p16INK4a, which slows cell division, is produced at higher levels by cells as per person ages. Using the expression of the gene that codes for p16INK4a as a marker of age, Andrew Smitherman, MD, MSc, and his colleagues of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, examined that immune cells circulating in the blood of young adult survivors of childhood cancers and of children and adolescents newly diagnosed with cancer.

The team first analyzed the cells of sixty survivors and compared them with cells from twenty-nine age matched individuals without a background history of cancer. The expression of the genes that codes for p16INK4a was higher in survivors than in controls, representing twenty- five age acceleration. 9 survivors were frail, and they found to have a higher level of expression as compared with survivors who were not frail, representing thirty five year age acceleration.

The researchers also found in the study that in the 9 children and adolescents who had a new diagnosis of cancer, expression was higher after treatment with chemotherapy than before treatment.

“Higher expression of p16INK4a in peripheral blood lymphocytes has been described in older adults following chemotherapy, but prior to this study, not in young adult survivors,” Dr. Smitherman said.

“This study is important as we try to understand the biological mechanisms underlying the manifestations of early aging in this population,” Smitherman added.

Dr. Smitherman stated that elevated p16INK4a expression as a marker of aging may help identify cancer survivors at risk for developing frailty and functional disability.

“Additionally, expression of p16INK4a may prove useful as a measure to study treatments aimed at mitigating the early aging effects of cancer treatment,” he informed.


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