Leuven researchers put a brake on cancer cells
Researchers from the University of Leuven have managed to reduce the spread of cancers in mice by blocking a critical enzyme
The researchers involved, led by Sarah-Maria Fendt of the VIB-KU Leuven Centre for Cancer Biology, are now looking for ways to translate their discovery into treatments. The discovery, published last week in the journal Nature Communications, concerns differences in the way invading cells generate energy compared to normal cells, or cancer cells that remain in the breast.
Fendt and her colleagues found that these invading cells use a completely different nutrient, called proline, processed through a different metabolic pathway. When they blocked a critical enzyme in this pathway, called Prodh, they substantially reduced the spread of cancers in mice, without harming healthy tissue or preventing organs from functioning normally.
“Our results provide ample evidence that Prodh is a potential breast cancer drug target,” Fendt said. The first step is to look at ways of controlling the enzyme during existing forms of preventative chemotherapy. The second is to look for new compounds that shut down the enzyme more completely than is possible at present.
This will require an industrial partner. “With the right partner, this could result in clinical trials in as little as five years,” Fendt said.
Photo: A radiology technician performs a mammography test
University of Leuven
staff members in 2013
students in 2014-2015 academic year
million euros in annual research budget