Chemotherapy may spread cancer and trigger more aggressive tumours

In July 2017, The UK’s Telegraph published an article headed Chemotherapy may spread cancer and trigger more aggressive tumours, warn scientists.1

They drew from research published that same month in Science Translational Medicine with the title Neoadjuvant chemotherapy induces breast cancer metastasis through a TMEM-mediated mechanism.2

The Telegraph reported on the findings that, even though chemo may shrink tumours in the short term, it increases the chances of cancer cells migrating to other parts of the body, thereby allowing them to spread and trigger more aggressive tumours.

The research suggests that chemo drugs can switch on a repair mechanism allowing tumours to grow back stronger and also to increase the number of ‘doorways’ on blood vessels (groups of cells known technically as Tumor MicroEnvironment of Metastasis, or TMEM) that allow cancer to spread throughout the body.

In mice, breast cancer chemotherapy drugs increased the number of cancer cells circulating throughout the body and in the lungs.


The original research also suggests that a drug called rebastinib can be used to interfere with the ‘doorway’ mechanism, and so help to limit the increased risk of TMEM-mediated spreading.


Science Translational Medicine 05 Jul 2017: Vol. 9, Issue 397, eaan0026 |