UCL team discovers a new molecule that can prevent metastases

Researcher Pierre Sonveaux’s team from the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) has “validated” a molecule that can prevent metastases. This is the second time in three years that UCL scientists identify a molecule that — at least on mice — is capable of preventing cancer from spreading. These two advances are unique worldwide, and “double the chances of developing an efficient drug in the prevention of metastases,” the academic institution was delighted to announce Monday.

In 2014, Pierre Sonveaux and his team had identified mitochondria’s role in the formation of “endobronchial metastases.” When the mitochondria of the tumor cells have been modified, they contribute to the development of metastases. But tests undertaken on mice carrying human breast cancer showed that a molecule, mitoQ, is capable of blocking these alterations.

Today, UCL researchers have identified a second molecule — catechin:lysine 1:2 — which also inhibits the formation of metastases. Tests on mice with melanoma have shown to be conclusive.

While mitoQ was a synthetic molecule, catechin:lysine 1:2 is produced at the start from a plant growing in Indonesia, Pierre Sonveaux explains. These two molecules aim very selectively at mitochondria, and not for the whole cell.

“They can prevent cancer from spreading, but cannot heal it,” the professor stresses.

He has great hopes that forthcoming molecular tests will confirm their efficacy in the treatment of several types of cancer in mice, when combined, for instance, with chemotherapy. Crossing the border between mouse and man is, however, much more uncertain. Which is why it is useful to work in parallel on two molecules, Mr. Sonveaux remarks.

The new study was published in the scientific review Frontiers in Pharmacology. It was led in collaboration with the Walloon SME Valore, that produced the catechin:lysine 1:2. A patent has been registered and the Belgian pharmaceutical company BePharBel has accepted to invest in the development of a process of large-scale production of this molecule in the hopes of producing, one day perhaps, medication for man.

The Brussels Times

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