Can Cervical cancer survival improve by targeting senescent ‘zombie’ cells?

Medical College of Georgia, in its report, stated some facts regarding How well women affected with cervical cancer respond to treatment and survive with the level of 10 proteins in their blood that are associated with a “zombie” cell state called senescence.

The medical college scientists looked at the pre-treatment level of these types of proteins in the blood. It was around 565 in the women who have cervical cancer at the second or third stage, going through internal radiation treatment known as brachytherapy. They observed that ladies with a low level of proteins secreted by the senescent cells had a reasonable survival rate than those with high levels of these senescence-associated secreted phenotypes.

In addition to that, they also found that brachytherapy implants, a source of radiation close to the cervix. It improved patients’ survival with high levels of these SASPs but had little impact on low levels.

They mentioned in the journal cancer that the result of the experiment demonstrates that cellular senescence is a significant factor in determining survival and therapeutic response in cervical cancer and suggests that senescence reduction therapy may be a productive strategy to improve the therapeutic outcome of cervical cancer.

Dr. Jin-Xiong, director of the MCG Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Genomic Medicine, and the study’s author, said they want to figure out how to treat cervical cancer better than we do in the present situation. Beyond the stage and treatment modality, what other factors play a significant role in determining which patients survive cancer and how they respond to radiation therapy.

She further added that the study’s most important conclusion is to manage senescence to improve cervical cancer therapy to treat cancer survivors.

Dr. Sharad Purohit, a biochemist in MCG Center for Biotechnology and Genomic Medicine and the study’s author, said that in the women with moderate to high blood levels of SASPs in their blood. A class of drugs called senolytics, which targets these cells for elimination and is understudy to benefit age-related problems and disease—as an adjunct therapy could help them.

Cervical cancer is a common type of gynecological cancer caused due to the human papillomavirus. At the same time, it is mostly preventable by regular Pap smears that can detect early, precancerous changes or vaccines against HPV, and the survival rates for those who get it have been sluggish for decades.

According to the American cancer society, cancer survival rates have improved since the mid-1970s, except for cervical and endometrial cancer.

Dr.  Sharad Purohit said that they observed levels of a total of 19 proteins and found that the cell’s secret in a pathological site like a precancerous or cancerous cervix. However, why the proteins form is a question they can’t yet answer.

They found that levels of ten proteins impacted cervical cancer survival in the women who were an average of 49-years-old. They all are associated with cellular senescence, either as the most destructive and inflammatory SASPs themselves or involved in regulating SASPs.

The scientist said that the cancer cells are associated with rapid reproduction that enables cancer’s growth; senescent cells cannot divide and reproduce. But they categorize these proteins as senescent cancer cells, which help create an inflammatory state in which cancer thrives and helps to lay down the groundwork for its spread. It also protects radiation therapy like chemotherapy and works in part by killing off typically rapidly dividing cancer cells. Senescent proteins change how cancer cells may respond to treatment.

Scientists also mentioned that they used machine learning for the experiment. Artificial intelligence enables the computers to figure out what the data means, link the high SASP level and low survival, and vice-versa.