Researchers have just added another debilitating effect of chemotherapy to the long list.
Doctors at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York say they discovered that chemo induces "an insidious type of nerve damage inside bone marrow that can cause delays in recovery after bone marrow transplantation."
Their findings were published Sunday in Nature Medicine.
The team said combining chemotherapy with nerve-protecting agents may prevent long-term bone marrow injury that causes anemia and may improve the success of bone marrow transplants.
Anemia can lead to numerous health problems including chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, depression and dizziness. Studies have shown that cancer patients who develop anemia have a 65% increased risk of death compared with cancer patients without anemia.
"Since many chemotherapies used in cancer treatment are neurotoxic, we wondered whether they might also damage sympathetic nerves in bone marrow itself, impairing the ability of hematopoietic cells to regenerate," Dr. Paul Frenette said in a statement. "This possibility hadn't been examined before."
Frenette and his colleagues plan to look for compounds that can protect sympathetic nerves in the bone marrow without reducing the effectiveness of cancer chemotherapies.