Ooops…. radiation therapy makes cancer worse.

Dr. Weeks Comment:  The Latin admonition:  Primum non nocere  (“First do no harm”)  is the foundational goal  of a healer.  Now we find that well -intended radiologists are doing harm while they try to heal – perhaps more harm than good.  It is now understood that, similar to what happens on a global scale (think war on terror) our actions make the problem worse:  in this case, radiation transforms cancer  cells into treatment resistant cancer STEM cells.   Another foundational value of  civilized medicine is the accomplishment of thorough disclaimers about pros and cons by doctors of their proposed treatments resulting in  full informed and freely given consent.  Question, dear reader:  the last time your doctor explained the risks and benefits of your CT (cat scan) did he or she reveal to you:   “Also, if the radiation hits any cancer cells, it will convert them into far deadlier cancer stem cells….”  No?    Hmmm..  Perhaps we need another Latin phrase to help we doctors better serve trusting patients:   

Ego deprecarentur.   Ego iniuriam.   Ignosces.  

(“I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”)


Radiation treatment generates therapy-resistant cancer stem cells from less aggressive breast cancer cells

  1. Carrie Printz

Article first published online: 18 JUN 2012

DOI: 10.1002/cncr.27701  Copyright © 2012 American Cancer Society    Cancer   Volume 118, Issue 13, page 3225, 1 July 2012



Researchers from the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center report that radiation treatment transforms cancer cells into treatment-resistant breast cancer stem cells, even as it kills half of all tumor cells.1

“When we look at early-stage cancer patients, we compare patients receiving exactly the same treatment, and some fail and some are cured, and we can’t predict who those patients will be,” says Frank Pajonk, MD, PhD, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of radiation oncology and Jonsson Cancer Center researcher.

In some cases, cancer stem cells are generated by the therapy, but scientists do not yet understand all the mechanisms that cause this to occur. If they can determine the pathway and remove the reprogramming of cancer cells, they ultimately may be able to reduce the amount of radiation given to patients along with its accompanying side effects, says Dr. Pajonk.

The investigators found that induced breast cancer stem cells (iBCSCs) were generated by radiation-induced activation of the same cellular pathways used to reprogram normal cells into induced pluripotent stem cells in regenerative medicine.

In the study, Dr. Pajonk and colleagues eliminated the smaller pool of BCSCs and then irradiated the remaining breast cancer cells and put them in mice. They were able to observe the initial generation into iBCSCs in response to the radiation treatment through a unique imaging system. These new cells were highly similar to the BCSCs that had been found in tumors that had not been irradiated. They also found that these iBCSCs had a more than 30-fold increased ability to form tumors than the nonirradiated breast cancer cells.

Their findings show that if tumors are challenged by certain stressors that threaten them (such as radiation), they generate iBCSCs that may, along with surviving cancer stem cells, produce more tumors.

The researchers’ work continues as they begin to identify the pathways and several classes of drugs to prevent this process from occurring. To date, they have identified 2 different targets and drugs that could prevent it. The group has published their results of the study in breast cancer but also has made similar observations in both glioblastoma and head and neck cancer.

Dr. Pajonk says the study does not discredit radiation therapy. “Patients come to me scared by the idea that radiation generates these cells, but it truly is the safest and most effective therapy there is.”

Dr. Weeks’ follow up comment:   Shame on Dr. Pajonk to make such an arrogant and unverifiable statement: “truly the safest and most effective therapy there is.”   This is the typical lie which results from a decade of close-minded training.   Why not speak the truth? Why not say what is accurate.  All he would have to say to be in integrity is  “truly the safest and most effective therapy that I know of at this time.”

Would that hurt him so much to just tell the truth?  What does he know about IPT or macrobiotics or  the use of anti-inflammatory agents which quell cancer process? Nothing!  Yet he discounts all other treatments other than the standard of care…. 


  • 1
    Lagadec, C, Vlashi, E, Della Donna, L, Dekmezian, C, Pajonk, F. Radiation-induced reprogramming of breast cancer cells. Stem Cells. 2012;30:833-844.

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