What Is Growth Inhibition?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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Growth inhibition refers to a reduction in the rate of development among cancer cells. Researchers studying possible approaches to cancer therapy can use laboratory assays to test different types of therapies and determine their level of usefulness. Treatments that appear to perform well in the lab can be taken into development and trials with the eventual goal of becoming available for patients. People in treatment for cancer may use growth inhibition among several treatments to fight the disease.

Chemicals are a common choice of growth inhibitor. They can work in a number of ways to halt the development of cancer cells at a variety of stages of growth. Another option can be radiation to target the cells and prevent their division and replication. In all cases, the treatment interrupts the process of growth in all or some cancer cells to stop the further progression of a tumor.

In laboratory settings, researchers work with cultures of cancer cells with a stable and known history. They can expose cells in culture to various treatments, including experimental treatments, controls, and known compounds. By measuring different response levels, the researchers can determine whether the cells respond and if the response is statistically significant. Promising options for growth inhibition can be targeted for further development and research to determine the level of side effects and other issues if they appear to perform reliably in culture.


Stopping cell growth in cancers can serve a number of functions. It may prevent the progression of a cancer, which could help bring a patient’s cancer under control. Growth inhibition can also be used after surgery to prevent recurrence. In this case, the patient undergoes treatment to ensure that any remaining cancer cells do not have an opportunity to start replicating after the primary tumor is removed. Since it can be difficult to completely excise a tumor, this follow-up treatment may be an important part of cancer care.

Collateral damage can be an issue with growth inhibition. Some treatments also harm healthy cells in the body; for example, a chemotherapy drug that looks for rapidly dividing cells might attack blood cells in the bone marrow. Researchers and care providers attempt to balance the benefits and costs of various treatment options to find a method that will provide the best chance of survival for the patient. This might involve making someone more ill on medication to kill the cancer and treating the side effects as they develop.



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