Scientists have found a way to make brain cancer cells die from stress
Researchers have developed a method that can cause cancer cells to die from stress.
Their research has shown promising results with glioblastoma, one of the most common and aggressive brain tumors in adults. The condition is estimated to affect approximately 19,000 people each year in the EU.
Treatment for glioblastoma has not changed much since the early 2000s and consists of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. The average survival time for a patient diagnosed with this condition is 15 months.
Cancer cells are naturally stressed
"Cancer cells are stressed cells, they are not normal, they are fundamentally stressed and they end up using stress response mechanisms to their advantage," said Eric Chevet, head of a cancer research laboratory at the French National Institute of Health. and Medicine.
"The advantage is that they are more resistant, stronger and able to migrate, so they are better able to withstand additional stresses such as chemotherapy," he said.
In the case of glioblastoma, cells use a protein called IRE1 as part of a stress response mechanism that makes them more resistant to cancer drugs. This stage is called "target identification".
The researchers wanted to see if influencing this process could weaken cancer cells. And they just published promising results in the journal iScience.
The study was a collaboration between researchers from INSERM in France and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
The team in Gothenburg examined around 15 million molecules, running simulations to predict how these would react with proteins in the body. One was identified as useful: the Z4P molecule.
The second step was a cellular test to examine the effect of that molecule on cancer cells.
They found that the Z4P molecule not only made the cancer cells less resistant, but also blocked their ability to migrate - one of the tendencies that makes glioblastoma such an aggressive condition.
Finally, the researchers tested their findings in vivo: they used the molecule to target cancer cells in mice in combination with a drug called temozolomide (TMZ), a type of chemotherapy traditionally used in glioblastoma.
They found that the combined treatment weakened the cancer cells' resistance to stress and significantly reduced the size of the tumors - and the role of the Z4P molecule was clear.
When using only TMZ, the tumors returned after a period of time - between 100 and 150 days. But with the combination of TMZ and the Z4P molecule, all the cancer cells disappeared and the mice had no cancer recurrence after 200 days.
What is expected next?
Despite these promising results, we are still far from a new drug, let alone a miracle pill.