WIKIMEDIA, NEPHRONA protein that protects the cells that line the gut may be able to prevent gastrointestinal damage following radiation, which can often be fatal, according to a study published this week (May 14) in Science Translational Medicine. A team led by Amato Giaccia of the Stanford University School of Medicine found that in mice a drug called dimethyloxallyl glycine (DMOG), which neutralizes enzymes that reduce levels of this protein, called hypoxia-inducible factor 2 (HIF2), protected against radiation-induced gut damage.
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health as part of a plan to develop medical interventions for use after a “dirty bomb” is detonated. But Giaccia’s team next plans to develop a version of the drug that can be used to protect healthy cells in people undergoing radiation therapy. Current therapies concentrate radiation narrowly around the target, such as a tumor, but metastasized cancer cells can spread the disease to other parts of the body. With a drug like Giaccia’s to protect gut cells, cancer patients might be able to undergo full-body radiation therapy, perhaps halting the tumor’s spread.
“We’re thinking about using this to transform radiotherapy from a localized type of therapy to a systemic therapy,” Giaccia told Nature News. “The potential to be able to use these drugs as clinical radioprotectors is not unreasonable.”