Cancer drug study gives hope for improving spinal cord injuries

A preliminary but very exciting medical research study could provide hope for many victims of spinal cord injuries. At low doses, the cancer drug Taxol (paclitaxel), which is already approved at high doses for human use in chemotherapy, was shown to stimulate the growth of nerve cells and reduce nerve scarring in rats whose spinal cords had been injured.

After a spinal cord injury, nerve cells known as axons are damaged and they can't be healed or re-grown with current medical knowledge. What that means for people who have suffered spinal cord trauma is that there is typically an upper limit to the amount of improvement they can expect from medical treatment and physical therapy. Since a serious injury to the spine can cause paralysis, paraplegia or even quadriplegia, a traumatic spinal cord injury is often a permanent, life-changing event.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Germany theorized that Taxol might be able to change that by taking away some of the factors that inhibit re-growth of spinal axons. When they treated rats with spinal injuries with Taxol, the researchers found that the drug both reduced nerve scarring and stimulated re-growth more than a placebo.

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