SHIP Down-Modulation as a Potential Approach to Protect Hematopoietic Cells During Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are currently used to treat many types of cancer. However, these treatments are not ideal because they target all dividing cells, including both cancerous and healthy cells. Blood cells, for example, have a finite lifespan and new cells are continuously being generated in the bone marrow. Unfortunately, the high doses of chemotherapy or radiation necessary to destroy malignant cells also kill these bone marrow cells. This reduces the body’s ability to replenish healthy blood cells, leading to life-threatening side effects such as anemia, infections, and uncontrolled bleeding. In such cases, the chemotherapy or radiation dose must be reduced, which, in turn, reduces the likelihood that cancerous cells will be eradicated. Melisa Hamilton is studying ways to protect blood cells during cancer treatment, with a particular interest in understanding how the SHIP protein inhibits blood cell survival. Melisa wants to determine whether reducing the level of this protein can increase cell survival during treatment. This would enable patients to withstand higher doses of chemotherapy or radiation with fewer side effects and increase the likelihood of killing the cancer cells.