US study claims BPA induces chemotherapy resistance

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bpa

A new US study shows that the exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical compound used in the linings of metal food and beverage cans and baby bottles, may reduce the efficacy of chemotherapy treatments.

Over 2.2 million tonnes of BPA are produced annually but concerns have arisen over the chemical since it has been found to migrate in small amounts into foods and beverages stored in the containers, especially upon heating, and some recent animal studies indicated that high levels of BPA could be carcinogenic.

The findings of a study from researchers based at the University of Cincinnati concluded that BPA generates a group of proteins that protect cancer cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives ​and was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the US Department of Defense and the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

The researchers, led by Nira Ben-Jonathan, explained that they subjected human breast cells to low levels of BPA, consistent with levels found in the blood of human adults.

Protection of cancer cells

The group claims that their study demonstrated that BPA is acting in cancer cells similar to the way estrogen works by inducing proteins that encourage chemotherapy resistance.

“BPA does not increase cancer cell proliferation like diethylstilbestrol (DES) does,”​ said Ben-Jonathan. “It’s actually acting by protecting existing cancer cells from dying in response to anti-cancer drugs, making chemotherapy significantly less effective.”

According to the Ben-Jonathan, the study can help explain why such resistance to chemotherapy still occurs in patients with less estrogen, such as post menopausal women.

The authors of the study claim that their data​provide considerable support to the accumulating evidence that BPA is hazardous to human health.

In September, scientists from the US National Toxicology Programme said that effects on reproductive development from BPA in packaging cannot be ruled out while a study by researchers in the UK, also released last month, linked the chemical to diabetes and heart disease.


The plastic and food packaging industries argue that BPA is regularly assessed and deemed safe at current exposure levels by food safety authorities in Europe and the US.

“Bisphenol A has been approved as safe for use in food and drink containers by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its use is closely monitored and regulated.

“Bottled water bottles and plastic soft drinks containers do not contain BPA. Food and drink can-linings that include BPA contain well below the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) level set by EFSA,”​ said the UK Food and Drink Federation last month.

Plastics Europe, which represents the interest of the​European plastics​manufacturing industry, told previously that the weight of the scientific evidence shows that there is no basis for health concerns over human exposure to BPA.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives​Published online ahead of print: doi: 10.1289/eph.11788Bisphenol A at low nanomolar doses confers chemoresistance in estrogen receptor alpha positive and negative breast cancer cells​Authors: E. W. LaPensee, T. R. Tuttle, S. R. Fox, N. Ben-Jonathan

Related topics: R&D

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