New Telegraph

‘Secondhand Smoke Reduces Chemotherapy’s Effectiveness’

People who are diagnosed with head and neck cancer often receive a standard type of chemotherapy as part of their treatment. If they are exposed to secondhand smoke during chemotherapy — even if they have never smoked themselves — the treatment may be far less effective at killing cancer cells.

Results of the finding, considered the first of its kind, by researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences, was published in the ‘International Journal of Molecular Sciences’.

Secondhand smoke exposure occurs when people breathe in smoke breathed out by people who smoke or from burning tobacco products. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke; even brief exposure can cause serious health problems and be deadly.

Tobacco use is a well-established risk factor for cancer and a signal of poor outcomes, especially if a person continues to smoke during treatment. However, researchers have understood much less about the effects of secondhand smoke on cancer treatment.

Lurdes Queimado, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of otolaryngology at the OU College of Medicine, led the investigation into secondhand smoke exposure, which was published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Her findings have major implications for cancer patients and the physicians who treat them. “Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide and is prevalent in Oklahoma, where we also have a high rate of smoking.

This is the first time that researchers have examined the impact of secondhand smoke exposure on cancer patients and the mechanism of why it is happening.

Our studies will continue, but we think it is important to raise awareness now that people who are exposed to secondhand smoke during treatment will likely have a worse prognosis,” said Queimado, who also directs the Tobacco Regulatory Science Lab in the TSET Health Promotion Research Center, a programme of OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center.

In her laboratory, Queimado and her team exposed head and neck cancer cells to secondhand smoke for 48 hours (a control group of cancer cells was not exposed to secondhand smoke). Simultaneously, the cells were treated with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat head and neck cancer.

The findings were significant: Twice as much chemotherapy was needed to kill the cells than would have been necessary without exposure to secondhand smoke.

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