The old phrase “even the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” is welcome news for cancer researchers.
A team of scientists recently happened upon an unexpected discovery that could lead to new developments in oncology treatment that provide innovative help for cancer patients.
The breakthrough was made by researchers at University of California San Francisco, who were trying out a regimen of drugs called mTOR inhibitors to treat cancer in mice. What they found was that the drugs were able to induce a phenomenon called “suspended animation” in mice embryos, essentially pausing the pregnancy for a number of weeks.
The development is similar to a natural process called diapause, which slows down pregnancy when an embryo is lacking proper nutrition.
Once the mTOR inhibitors were stopped, the embryos continued to grow and develop into healthy mice.
Among the takeaways, researchers think the discovery could provide help for cancer patients by mimicking the diapause process and suppressing the growth of cancer cells. They did, however, note that much more research is needed on this front, as preliminary data suggests that growth of cancer cells can begin again after the mTOR inhibitors are lifted.
Cancer isn’t the only area the discovery could affect. Researchers are also looking into its impact on the field of assisted reproduction, as the data suggested the dormant stage created by mTOR inhibitors could be used, instead of freezing, to help doctors test embryos for genetic defects.
Even though it was unexpected, the mTOR discovery can revolutionize expectations for cancer treatment.