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Treating stomach cancer with Botox

A new study has reported that Botox, which is commonly used to remove facial wrinkles, may have value in the treatment of stomach cancer
A new study has reported that Botox, which is commonly used to remove facial wrinkles, may have value in the treatment of stomach cancerRobin Wulffson, MD

Stomach cancer is a deadly disease. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), overall, only 29% of individuals diagnosed with stomach cancer will be alive five years later. The ACS estimates for the US in 2014 that approximately 22,220 cases of stomach cancer will be diagnosed (13,730 in men and 8,490 in women) and about 10,990 individuals will die from this cancer (6,720 men and 4,270 women). A new study has reported that Botox, which is commonly used to remove facial wrinkles, may have value in the treatment of stomach cancer. The findings were published on August 20 in the journal Science Translational Medicine by an international team of researchers.

Botox is a toxin, which interrupts nerve function to relax muscles and smooth out wrinkles. The study authors note that the nervous system plays an important role in the regulation of epithelial homeostasis (maintenance of a normal status in lining cells, such as those that line the stomach); research has also suggested that the nervous system plays a role in the development of malignant tumors. For the study, the investigators used three different strains of mice with gastric cancer. They either cut the vagus nerve, which supplies the stomach, or disrupted the nerve’s function by injecting Botox. They found that either procedure significantly reduced the incidence of tumor formation and progression; however, the effect was only present in areas of the stomach in which the nerve supply was disrupted. They also found that either treatment also heightened the therapeutic effects of chemotherapy and prolonged survival. The authors concluded that their study may lead to more effective treatments for this deadly cancer.

Stomach cancer is much more common in other parts of the world than the US, It is particularly in less developed countries and is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world. Until the late 1930s, stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in the US. Currently, stomach cancer is much less common in the nation. The reasons for this marked decline is not fully understood; however, it may be related to increased use of refrigeration for food storage. This made fresh fruits and vegetables more available and decreased the use of salted and smoked foods. Some researchers think the decline may also be linked to the frequent use of antibiotics to treat infections. Antibiotics can kill the bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, which is thought to be a major cause of stomach cancer.

The following are suggested risk factors for stomach cancer:

  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Diet that includes: large amounts of smoked foods; salted fish and meat; pickled vegetables; foods and beverages that contain nitrates and nitrites, which are commonly found in cured meats; tobacco use; previous stomach surgery; megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia (caused by vitamin B12 deficiency); Menetrier's disease; age (marked increase after age 50 and the average age at the time of diagnosis is 70); male gender (more men are diagnosed with the disease than women); or having blood type A.
  • Family history of: hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer; familial adenomatous polyposis; breast cancer gene mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2; stomach cancer; history of stomach polyps; or history of stomach lymphoma.
  • Exposure to environmental factors, such as dusts and fumes in the workplace, most commonly the coal, metal, and rubber industries.
  • Race (more common in Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African-Americans than in non-Hispanic Caucasian Americans).
  • Obesity