The toxin has numerous clinical applications such as relieving facial spasms, strabismus and treating muscle hyperactivity. The toxin acts by blocking release of acetylcholine and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters).
It is hypothesized that this neurotransmitter release inhibition could inhibit neuromuscular contraction of blood vessels that supply the tumor. This could eventually pave way for enhanced tumor perfusion, allowing effective delivery of cytotoxic drugs and oxygen (improves tumor response to radiotherapy) supplied to the tumor.
To verify the above hypothesis, Dr. Bernard Gallez and his research team injected Botulinum neurotoxin (Type A) into mouse tumors. As expected, the vascular architecture of the tumor opened, destroying the previously resistant cancer cells. The study is the first of its kind to test the use of Botox as an adjuvant in the effective treatment of resistant tumors.
In addition, pre-treatment with Botox delayed further growth of the tumor and promoted apoptosis, that could enhance the clinical outcome of cancer treatment. Based on further research in the same direction, it might even be possible to overcome drug resistance or reduce standard radiotherapy and chemotherapy dosages, thereby eliminating the associated side effects.
Until now, much of cancer treatment has been focused towards starving the tumor of its blood supply. This new approach, targeted at enhanced blood supply for effective delivery of chemotherapeutic agents and radiation represents a new dimension of cancer research.
'Tumor vasculature is targeted by several advanced anti-cancer approaches that may appear contradictory. Anti-angiogenesis and anti-vascular targeting are methods aimed at destroying the vessels that feed tumors, thereby depriving them of oxygen and nutrients. In contrast, pro-vascular approaches increase tumor perfusion and oxygenation temporarily,' concluded Dr. Gallez.