Ongoing research underway at The University of Queensland in Australia is focusing on stopping children undergoing chemotherapy from feeling pain and other debilitating side effects.
Dr Hana Starobova from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience has been awarded a Fellowship Grant from the Children’s Hospital Foundation to continue her research to relieve children from the side effects of cancer treatments.
“Although children have a higher survival rate than adults following cancer treatments, they can still be suffering side-effects well into their adulthood,” Dr Starobova said.
“A five-year-old cancer patient could be suffering severe pain, gastrointestinal problems or difficulty walking 20 years on from treatment.
“There has been a lack of studies on children, which is an issue because they are not just small adults — they suffer from different cancers, their immune systems work differently and they have a faster metabolism, all of which affect how treatments work.
“Our aim is to treat children before the damage happens so that the side-effects are dramatically reduced or don’t occur in the first place.”
Dr Starobova is currently analysing how specific drugs could prevent a cascade of inflammation caused by chemotherapy drugs, which lead to tingling and numbness in hands and feet, and muscle pain and weakness that makes everyday tasks, like walking and doing up buttons, a challenge.
She is focusing on Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in children, with over 700 children diagnosed in Australia each year.
“We are studying the most commonly used chemotherapy treatment for children, which is a mix of drugs that are very toxic, but have to be used to treat cancer fast and stop it becoming resistant to the drugs,” Dr Starobova said.
“It’s a fine balance — too little chemotherapy and cancer won’t be killed but sometimes the side effects are so bad, patients have to stop the therapy.
“I hope that by having a treatment to reduce side-effects, it will be one less thing for these kids and their families to worry about.”
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Source: The Print, 15 August 2022