NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE: DNA damage can trigger the development of cancer, accelerate aging, or both, writes Dr Jan H.J. Hoeijmakers, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam.
When the damage is not repaired, the outcome may be cancer – or, if cell death or senescence (aging) occurs, protection from cancer – but the trade-off is acceleration of the aging process.
The development of cancer and the process of aging can be delayed by reducing the load of DNA damage — by avoiding or limiting exposure to exogenous genotoxins and by suppressing metabolism — thereby producing fewer reactive species.
However, DNA damage, like caloric (calories) restriction, can also elicit a protective survival response that promotes longevity and healthy aging.
Recently, the use of (immuno-suppressant drug) sirolimus in mice was found to extend their life span and delay the development of conditions associated with aging, including cancer. Sirolimus is one of presumably many compounds that may elicit the survival response.
The frequent derailment of DNA damage-response systems in tumours presents another possible route by which new treatments can act selectively on the tumor.