It is well documented the body has a tremendous ability to repair itself after low-grade radiation exposure. After all, with low levels of radiation found naturally occurring in the environment, it needs to on a regular basis. This mechanism, however, can sometimes get in the way of the effectiveness of higher dose radiation treatments on skin cancer cells.
Radiation therapy involves the use of highly targeted beams of radiation pointed directly at tumors and in areas where stray cells are believed to be harbored. While radiation is extremely effective at killing cancerous cells and stopping their progression, the healing properties of certain cells found in the skin may decrease the overall effectiveness of these treatments.
To enable skin cancer patients to more readily gain the benefits of radiation, researchers have been working on a way to turn off the repairing ability in cells called Langerhans. These special skin immune cells are able to repair damage in their own DNA that is caused by radiotherapy, which essentially allows them to become resistant to its effects. What’s more, the repair process can trigger an immune response that impacts tumors and may enable them to become resistant to further treatment. A group of drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors are being tested to boost the immune system in these cases to attack tumors. The drugs also essentially block the ability of Langerhans to repair themselves, which stops the immune response that inadvertently protects skin tumor cells from radiation’s effects.
While more study is required before the use of these drugs is introduced on a widespread basis, the approach is producing strong results. Down the road, this type of combination therapy may provide skin cancer patients the boost they need to see highly successful outcomes from radiation.
Patients who are diagnosed with skin cancer should speak with their healthcare providers about all treatment options available to them. The risks and potential rewards of treatments should be readily understood and carefully weighed.
By Maialisa from Pixabay