A researcher works with stem cells in a laboratory.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hebrew University researchers have discovered an unknown connection between colorectal cancer and melanoma – the most dangerous skin cancer. Working on lab mice that faithfully mimic the human disease melanoma, they found that a drug named NT157 used against the skin cancer is surprisingly effective in fighting colorectal malignancies.
Longtime oncology researcher Emeritus Prof. Alexander Levitzki and his Hebrew University team published their findings from two studies in the October issue of the cancer research journal Oncogene.
Cancer is a highly complex disease in which the tumor recruits its surrounding tissue, as well as the immune system, to support and promote its own growth. This explains why tumor therapy has been so difficult to achieve. Researchers now realize that not only does the tumor need to be targeted, but its micro-environment and the immune system also require targeting, which is subverted by the tumor to support it.
The articles focus on the potential of using the melanoma drug to treat cancer of the colon and rectum, a very deadly cancer, and the thirdmost commonly diagnosed cancer in Israel, the US and elsewhere.
Working with senior researchers Efrat Flashner-Abramson, Dr. Hadas Reuveni and other colleagues, Levitzki and his team described the NT157 molecule and its potential uses for fighting metastatic human melanoma. In an accompanying article in the same journal, University of California at San Diego Prof.
Michael Karin, working with Levitzki’s laboratory, showed the dramatic therapeutic effects of NT157 on colon cancer in the mice. The molecule must be tested and evaluated further in humans.
This unique family of compounds inhibits the action of proteins within the tumor itself, the action of these two cancer-driving proteins in the cancer-supportive micro-environment and the action of “pro-tumor” immune cells. Levitzki explained that the molecules target two different proteins that have completely different mechanisms of action.
A family of small organic molecules which performs these functions was developed at the Hebrew University’s Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, in collaboration with the oncological pharmaceutical company TyrNovo.
The company licensed NT157 from the university’s research development company Yissum. The NT157 molecule targets two different proteins, employing a completely different mechanism of action, one that was “highly unexpected and unforeseen.”
Both the tumor and the conducive micro-environment became suppressed – a highly effective activity against colon cancer.