In the nearly 20 years since Botox first sprang on the scene as a controversial way to freeze wrinkles, botulinum toxin type A is continuing to show us that it’s more than just a cosmetic enhancement.In an August 2014 study in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Columbia University and MIT have shown that stopping the function of certain nerves with an injection of Botox can halt the growth of deadly stomach cancer.
Based on the observation that there are often lots on nerves on and around tumors, the research team tested whether blocking the function of those nerves would have a beneficial effect. They used multiple methods to stop the flow of neurotransmitters from the vagus nerve to stem cells in gastric tumors. Severing the nerve completely cut off communication to cancer stem cells, suppressing their growth. So did injecting Botox.As readers of this or any other beauty site knows, Botox is a neurotoxin that smoothes skin by paralyzing the muscles that cause wrinkles. For the purpose of this study, the same ability was exploited, except that instead of being aimed at the “elevens” between the eyebrows, it was injected at tumor sites, where it disabled neurons sending signals to cancerous cells.
“We found that by removing the effect of the nerve, the stem cells in the cancer tumor are suppressed, leading to cancer treatment and prevention,” said NTNU professor Duan Chen, one of the authors of the study. “The finding that Botox was highly effective was particularly exciting.”Though Botox alone likely won’t cure cancer, it makes tumors more vulnerable to traditional chemotherapy treatments. It may also be used in patients who have inoperable stomach cancer, or who can’t tolerate or no longer respond to chemotherapy. The team believes this method has potential to treat other solid tumors, such as in prostate cancer.MORE: Could Botox Stop Your Migraines?