Slowing Cancer: DFMO
There are some really exciting developments in the area of cancer treatment. One of them, that I want to share with you, is the drug Difluoromethylornithine (DFMO), a cytostatic inhibitor of cellular proliferation. DFMO prevents cancerous cell growth by interfering with ornithine decarboxylase, a key enzyme in cancerous metastasis.
Metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to many, is initiated when cancer cells escape from their starting point (ex: small intestine) into the bloodstream. This initiation is known as the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), in which cancer cells transition from their confined, epithelial state to their acute, mesenchymal state. During this transition, cancer cells also lose adhesion with each other, each becoming more mobile as an individual cell. You can see how this would be a huge challenge in the treatment of cancer. The more diffuse these cells become, the greater the spread of the cancer. EMT occurs once cells replicate enough and begin to invade the bloodstream, making treatment of the cancer much more difficult.
This is what makes DFMO such an exciting new development in cancer treatments. It works to inhibit cancer cell growth, thus making it a viable candidate in delaying the EMT in cancer patients. The use of DFMO in early stage cancer treatment (except cancer cell-suspensions like leukemia and lymphoma) would restrict the cells to a small tumor in a confined area. This would give doctors a chance to attack and remove the isolated tumor with cytotoxic (cell-killing) drugs and/or surgical methods. This would drastically drop the threat of a possible EMT and subsequent metastasis. Now tested on select groups of humans, DFMO has shown to be promising, its only downside being slight hearing loss (ototoxicity). Perhaps in the near future, DFMO will be used in initial stages of cancer treatments and decrease the ongoing spread of the disease.