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Botox Tested on Stomach Cancer in Mice

Preliminary research suggests the wrinkle treatment might silence critical nerves that support tumors


According to the study, the two treatments reduced the number of tumors and their progression while boosting survival and the effects of chemotherapy.

The findings show that "nerves are very important in the development and formation of many organ systems and likely play a very important role in the early growth and spread of tumors," Wang said.

Botox is made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. It is best known for temporarily smoothing wrinkles by paralyzing facial muscles. Doctors also use it to correct crossed eyes, control excessive underarm sweating and overactive bladder, and to treat migraine headaches, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Wang acknowledged there are many caveats to the study. For one thing, silencing the nerves could hurt the functioning of the stomach, although some issues could be fixed. "In the setting of cancer all of these effects are probably minor," Wang said. Also, the treatment wouldn't help with cancer that has spread beyond the stomach, he said.

It's also not clear how much a possible Botox treatment would cost, although the toxin in Botox is fairly cheap compared to the cost of many cancer drugs, he said, and has few side effects. The Botox would be administered through gastroscopy, a noninvasive procedure, and require a hospital stay of a few hours, the researchers said.

Wang said researchers are now testing their approaches in patients in clinical trials. However, Lichtenfeld cautioned that the approach's "impact on cancer treatment remains far from certain."

Results obtained from animal studies are not necessarily replicated in humans. "This would have to be applied in patients before anyone could make any claim about the benefit," Lichtenfeld said.

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