New Data Shows Breast Cancer Chemotherapy Weakens Immune System

A scientific studied breast cancer patients' immune system through and after chemotherapy. The general data showed that a patient's immune system remained weakened for nine months after chemotherapy then returning to pre-chemotherapy levels.

A scientific study shows that after breast cancer chemotherapy, a survivor’s immune system is depressed 9 months after chemotherapy has stopped. Researchers point out that a suppressed immune system leaves survivors vulnerable to ordinary infections even if they have already received a prior immunization.

“We were surprised that the impact of chemotherapy is so long lived,” one of the senior authors, Thomas Hughes, an associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Leeds, said.

The researchers studied 88 breast cancer patients’ antibodies and their white blood cells during the completion of chemotherapy. The researcher’s data showed that the patient’s’ white blood cells dropped considerably after chemotherapy. These cells rose back to pre-chemotherapy state 9 months after chemotherapy and maintained this level three months thereafter. The data also showed a decreased level of antibodies (the body’s defense against tetanus and pneumonia) fell and returned to normal levels 9 months after chemotherapy.

The data provided has researchers recommending the importance of monitoring patients after chemotherapy in order to catch and prevent further sickness.

During the study the researchers looked specifically at the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells. These lymphocytes include the B cells, T cells, and natural killer cells are known to protect the body against viruses and bacteria. The B cells produce antibodies with the assistance of the T helper cells. Antibodies point out and destroy pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. Different antibodies having particular pathogens they fight.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women. Of the different treatment options, 30 percent of breast cancer patients choose chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy works by destroying quickly-multiplying cells intended for those of a cancerous tumor. But white blood cells within bone marrow are also quickly-multiplying cells and chemotherapy is likely to attack these. White blood cells are the cells that protect the body from virus and bacteria. So while chemotherapy works to destroy the cancerous cells it also destroys the healthy immune protecting cells.

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Release ID: 102165