New approach may curb treatment-related skin fibrosis in cancer patients

07/01/2019

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Drs. Fei-Fei Liu (L) and Xiao Zhao. (Photo: UHN)

A clinical-scientific team specializing in head-and-neck cancer has identified a way to manipulate metabolism to potentially curb skin fibrosis – a common side effect of radiotherapy affecting quality of life of cancer survivors. 

The study findings from the laboratory of principal investigator Dr. Fei-Fei Liu, Chief, Radiation Oncology, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, are published online today in Nature Metabolism. Dr. Liu is also Professor and Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Toronto and holds the Dr. Mariano Elia Chair in Head and Neck Oncology. 

First author Dr. Xiao Zhao, a resident in head-and- neck surgery who completed PhD studies with Dr. Liu, says the research team wanted to find a way to reduce radiation-induced fibrosis, a condition where normal tissue progressively thickens causing pain and dysfunction. The underlying problem is the excess buildup of the extracellular matrix, a supporting structure for all tissues. There is currently no effective treatment to reduce this accumulation. 

The findings from human tissues with radiation-induced fibrosis and pre-clinical lab experiments steered the team to zero in on metabolic processes that trigger and perpetuate fibrosis.  

Read the full story from the UHN newsroom.