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New therapy reactivates immune response against cancer by blocking protein

Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital researchers develop promising treatment for patients with aggressive tumors

 

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11 June 2019 02:06 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Researchers in Catalonia have developed a therapy that reactivates the anti-cancer alarm system in patients with especially aggressive tumors with high levels of the LIF protein. This protein has been found in mainly brain, ovarian, pancreatic and lung tumors and it tends to turn off the body’s immune response to the tumor as well as to promote the proliferation of tumor stem cells.

Vall d'Hebron Oncology Institute (VHIO) researchers showed that they could stop the spread of cancer cells and reactivate the body's anti-tumor immune response by inhibiting LIF. Inhibiting LIF could, as a result, help prevent metastasis and relapses.

The results of the research were published in the 'Nature Communications' journal, with the new therapy now undergoing phase I clinical trials in Catalonia, the US and Canada.

  • "This protein correlates with very aggressive tumors and the medicine gives us a bit more hope of treating these tumors in the future"

    Joan Seoane · Doctor at Vall d'Hebron Oncology Institute

"This protein correlates with very aggressive tumors and the medicine gives us a bit more hope of treating these tumors in the future," said Dr. Joan Seoane, the head of the study and of VHIO’s Translational Research.

Seoane also told the press that, while researchers are working in the right direction, it will still be a few years before this science will be able to benefit cancer patients.

Types of cancers

Researchers believe that 50% of glioblastomas, 60% of pancreatic tumors, 15% of lung tumors and 30% of ovarian tumors present elevated levels of the LIF protein. The fact that the same drug is being used to target tumors in different organs represents, according to Seoane, a paradigm shift in oncologic research as there is now a greater focus on the molecular processes in the tumor rather than its location.

The LIF-inhibiting drug in question was developed in Barcelona by Mosaic Biomedicals, which works closely with VHIO. Researchers from Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic were also part of the team that developed the science behind this drug, as were scientists and doctors of various specialties, for which Seoane has highlighted the team’s multi-centric and multi-disciplinary approach.

Vall d'Hebron hospital research institute

VHIO is also at the forefront of other innovative cancer treatments, participating, for example, in trials for a drug that has shown to delay pancreatic cancer progression as well as for gastric cancer immunotherapy treatments. The center has also begun using an innovative radiotherapy accelerator to treat cancer and has recently unveiled research on Parkinson’s and schizophrenia.

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  • Doctor Joan Seoane, lead VHIO investigador, with fellow researchers Mónica Pascual-García and Ester Bonfill-Teixidor in their lab on June 7, 2019 (Laura Fíguls/ACN)

  • Doctor Joan Seoane, lead VHIO investigador, with fellow researchers Mónica Pascual-García and Ester Bonfill-Teixidor in their lab on June 7, 2019 (Laura Fíguls/ACN)

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