May 13, 2021

Researchers pinpoint possible way to prevent permanent hearing loss caused by common childhood cancer drug

Photo: William Au

University of Alberta scientists have identified a receptor in cells that could be key to preventing permanent hearing loss in childhood cancer survivors who are being treated with the drug cisplatin. The researchers believe by inhibiting the receptor, they may be able to eliminate toxic side-effects from the drug that cause hearing loss.

Cisplatin is an incredibly effective chemotherapeutic when it comes to treating solid tumours in children, contributing to an 80 per cent overall survival rate over five years, according to U of A researcher Amit Bhavsar, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology. The problem has always been with the side effects. Nearly 100 per cent of patients who receive higher doses of cisplatin show some degree of permanent hearing loss. The ability to prevent this side-effect would dramatically improve the quality of life of childhood cancer survivors after they recover from the disease.

As Bhavsar explains, many researchers look at cisplatin’s damaging side effects from the angle of genetics, trying to determine underlying risk factors for hearing loss or examine how it works as a chemotherapeutic. A fair amount was known about the progression of hearing loss as a side-effect, but it was the initial spark—the instigating factor kicking everything off—that remained a mystery.

Read the full article on Folio.