A New Frontier in Cancer Treatment: Understanding Chemoresistance

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Have you ever wondered why some cancer treatments work for some patients but not for others? This question lies at the heart of a new study conducted by researchers at Purdue University. They’ve embarked on a mission to unlock the mysteries of chemoresistance — the phenomenon where cancer patients’ bodies resist the effects of chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy has been a cornerstone in cancer treatment, offering hope and extended lifespans to many. However, the shadow of chemoresistance looms large, with some patients finding their treatments ineffective. This not only costs precious time but can also lead to unnecessary side-effects without the benefit of slowing down the cancer.

Enter a team of veterinary scientists and physicists from Purdue, who’ve proposed a novel method to tackle this issue head-on. Their approach is as innovative as it is unexpected: using Doppler ultrasound, a technique familiar to many from weather forecasts and pregnancy scans, to detect how cancer cells respond to chemotherapy.

“Because motion is the result of cellular ‘machinery,’ patients who will respond positively to their chemotherapy show different mechanical responses to the drugs than patients who will not respond. This has the potential to identify patients for whom chemotherapy will not be successful so they can be directed to more effective treatment,” explains David Nolte, the study’s principal investigator, in a media release.

The study’s main revelation lies in biodynamic imaging (BDI), a technique developed to observe the internal mechanical movements of cancer cells. This method has shown that patients likely to respond to chemotherapy exhibit different mechanical responses within their cancer cells compared to those who won’t. This discovery opens the possibility of predicting chemoresistance, offering a beacon of hope for tailoring treatments to individual patients.

Biodynamic imaging works by measuring the motions inside cancer cells before and after exposure to anti-cancer drugs. Through this, the researchers have found a reliable way to identify who might benefit from chemotherapy and who might need alternative treatments. Their findings, backed by over eight years of research, have been consistent across humans and canines, making a strong case for BDI’s effectiveness.

“The current research shows that BDI is, in fact, a general and robust technique,” Dr. Nolte says. “It shows similar results across two species (human and canine) and two diseases (lymphoma and esophageal cancer). This provides, for the first time, strong evidence that measuring mechanical motions in living cancer tissues is a viable and promising approach for predicting patient chemoresistance.”

Cancer patient receiving chemotherapy
Chemoresistance is a phenomenon where cancer patients’ bodies resist the effects of chemotherapy. (© RFBSIP – stock.adobe.com)

The study’s strengths lie in its innovative approach and the promising results from both human and canine trials. However, the researchers are the first to admit that there’s still much to learn, especially regarding the technique’s application across different cancer types and stages. The next steps involve “prospective” Phase 2 trials, which aim to predict patient responses before chemotherapy begins, potentially revolutionizing how treatments are selected.

What does this mean for cancer patients and their doctors? The promise of personalized medicine is closer than ever. By identifying chemoresistance early, doctors could avoid ineffective treatments, sparing patients from side-effects and focusing on therapies that are more likely to succeed. This approach would not only save time but could also save many lives.

What does a pharmacist think?

Not only were the methods used in this study new and interesting, but the underlying question — whether or not motion changes in cancer cells before and after chemotherapy can predict chemoresistance — was also interesting.

The use of canine patients as opposed to laboratory mice was advantageous and strengthened the results of the study because canine tumors are more closely related to human tumors than mice. This further proves the feasibility of transplanting these techniques used in this study to human samples.

Prospective trials, where the prediction will happen before chemotherapy is applied, are still needed to further prove the applicability of this technique to the general population of cancer patients. If future trials are successful, the world of personalized medicine will be changed for the better.

By bringing us closer to understanding and overcoming chemoresistance, this study paves the way for more personalized, effective cancer treatments. As we look toward a future where cancer care is tailored to the individual, we see a horizon filled with possibilities, promising better outcomes for patients navigating the challenging journey of cancer treatment.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Follow on Google News

About the Author

Alexander Olumese, PharmD

Alexander Olumese is a DMV-based registered pharmacist and medical writer. He has over 10 years of experience with community and hospital pharmacies, as well as over 3 years within the pharmaceutical industry as a medical writer within medical affairs. He has a background in a variety of therapeutic areas. However, he specializes in cardiovascular disease, oncology, pain medicine, and infectious disease.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer


  1. Very interesting indeed, as for my self I have a sickness that no doctor is able to figure it out what it is I’ve done all tests they negative I have pain in my stomach and also cannot breath with nose I can’t even smell anything please help. Is this not cancer related?

  2. I have cervical cancer stage 3b diagnosed December Dr plan is radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy.Up to date I have not responded being scared of chemoresistance if possible I would really go for this test first many people will get relevant treatment

  3. I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer last year in March, I started chemotherapy treatment in April and finished in August. It was a difficult journey as my kidneys and liver were extremely painful. Once I was done with chemo, I was sent for mammogram where it showed that tumors were reduced from the initial size but I wasn’t happy cos the difference was very small compared to before I started chemo. I was then told that I have to undergo a surgery to remove the whole left breast and lympnodes of of I did in September. I then underwent 15 sessions of radiation in December…. I noticed that some glands were growing on the right axillary. I went for biopsy and it was negative. By January there were 2 painful glands then in Feb I went for Pet scan of which the results were that I have 3 Cancer tumours on my liver, 1 on my spine and 2 on my right axillary. I am shattered and confused as I have undergone all the processes now I find myself on stage 4 cancer whilst m on treatments! My Dr told me that she will put me on Yulareb pills which requires me to change my medical aid option to Boncomprehensive and loose 7k every month from my salary.

    I read that Yulareb drug is very bad especially for my liver and kidneys so I do not want to embark on this treatment as I have lost faith in Western ways of treating cancer.

    Please advise further, m really frustrated

Comments are closed.