Three common chemotherapy drugs cause DNA mutations not only in mice that receive treatment, but also in their offspring, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA1.
Since then, he and his team have gone on to look at whether mutation-causing chemicals produce the same effects. The effects of chemotherapy could be more dramatic, they reasoned, because cancer-free regions of the body are often shielded from radiation therapy, but chemotherapies are generally given systemically, and can affect many tissues of the body, especially those containing dividing cells where DNA is rapidly replicating.
Mutations in this region were twice as common in the offspring of treated males than they were in either parent. And the mutations appeared in DNA inherited from the exposed father and the untreated mother alike.
In recent years, researchers have begun to investigate the ‘bystander effect’, in which cells that do not directly receive radiation show signs of radiation-induced changes. It’s possible that some of these effects — perhaps linked to signalling between cells — could contribute to the heritable genomic instability seen in response to radiation and, now, chemotherapy, O’Sullivan notes.