A research paper by Belgian scientists at the Université Catholique de Louvain claims to have found a way to inhibit the metastasis of carcinogenic tumors in mice, which as Joel Flynn reports, could potentially open a new avenue of treatment for breast and skin cancers.
It's one of humanity's greatest battles - the fight against cancer. For some it's a death sentence, but new ways of combating tumours are constantly evolving, and scientists at the Université Catholique de Louvain say they've found another. Around 90 percent of deaths from cancer are caused by metastasis - when cancer cells change and move to other parts of the body. But Professor Pierre Sonveaux says he and his colleagues may have found a way to prevent this. SOUNDBITE: Université Catholique de Louvain Institute of Experimental and Clinical Research (IREC) Team Leader, Professor Pierre Sonveaux, saying (English): "When you have few metastases, this is still manageable for therapy. But when you have a lot of metastases all around your body, you are good for palliative care, it's sad to say so. So what we've found is a treatment able to prevent metastases. Of course, this offers a high hope for patients which are at risk for metastases." The research, published in the journal Cell Reports, has drawn some praise from other scientists. Dr Chris Bakal is from the UK Institute of Cancer Research. SOUNDBITE: Institute of Cancer Research Dynamical Cell Systems Team Leader, Dr Chris Bakal, saying (English): "What this paper revealed was the mechanism by which cells can control these cell-shaped changes, and interestingly it involved the production of free radicals, which then triggered a mechanism which changed the shape of cells, which then drove metastasis." The free radical involved in the metastacism of tumour cells is superoxide. Tests in mice on melanoma and breast cancer cells showed that administering an antioxidant stopped superoxide being produced, according to the report. That in turn is said to have prevented metastasis, with a remarkable rate of success, says Sonveaux. SOUNDBITE: Université Catholique de Louvain Institute of Experimental and Clinical Research (IREC) Team Leader, Professor Pierre Sonveaux, saying (English): "In some of these models, we found 100 percent response. It means that we prevented by 100% percent the dissemination of metastases. When you are a scientist and when you find this, you just fall on the ground. This is a very nice result." Sonveaux and his team now hope to extend testing to cancer types, other than melanoma and breast. They've also raised the prospect of clinical trials in the coming years.