Lithium to protect brain during cancer treatments

Lithium may help revolutionise cancer treatment.

Byline: ANI

Washington, May 5 (ANI): Lithium, a drug widely used to treat bipolar mood disorder, may also help radiation target cancer and spare healthy tissue, according to a study.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers say that their work has uncovered a mechanism that helps explain how lithium protects the brain from damage that occurs during radiation treatments.

Lead researcher Dr. Fen Xia has shown that lithium promotes DNA repair in healthy cells but not in brain tumour cells, which suggests that lithium treatment could offer a way to protect healthy brain tissue from damage that may occur during cranial radiation treatments.

A previous study led by Dr. Dennis Hallahan, chair of Radiation Oncology and the Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, had found lithium treatment to protect cultured hippocampal neurons from radiation-induced cell death, and to improve cognitive performance in irradiated mice.

However, the researchers were still unclear as to how lithium protects against radiation-induced damage.

Describing their study in a research paper, the researchers highlight the fact that one of the most serious types of DNA damage is the chromosomal double-stranded break (DSB), in which both strands of the double helix are severed. They say that even a single unrepaired DSB can be lethal to a cell.

Working in collaboration with Dr. Eddy Yang, a resident in the Radiation Oncology department and an American Board of Radiology Holman Research Scholar, and postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Hong Wang, Xia examined DNA repair in lithium-treated mouse hippocampal neurons exposed to radiation.

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