Commonly used chemotherapy works differently than previously thought


How much do we know about the way chemotherapy kills cancer cells? Not enough – or so our researchers show in their latest work. Taxanes, a common type of chemotherapy, turn out to kill cancer cells in a different way than previously thought. This surprising finding can help tomorrow’s physicians optimize the use of taxanes: more effective and with fewer side effects.

Many patients receive taxanes as part of their treatment. But not everybody benefits from the addition of this type of chemotherapy. For example, we barely see an increase in five-year survival rates of patients with triple-negative breast cancer: 80% to 83%. And this comes at the cost of potentially debilitating side effects, including hair loss and long-term nerve pain.

“To me, three percent seems very small, we would like to improve that,” researcher and professor Jacco van Rheenen says. “And that requires a greater understanding of the way the medicine works.”

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