Scientists at TSU and the Tomsk Research Center and colleagues from Heidelberg University and the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre are developing a new way to fight cancer. As a part of the Alpha-Chit project, they investigated the properties of a chitinase-like protein that can be an effective tool for the treatment of cancer. Preclinical trials have shown that the protein blocks signals that attract cells to the problem area and contribute to the growth and metastasis of the tumor.
- The microenvironment plays a decisive role in the development of a malignant tumor,- explains Julia Kzhyshkovska, head of the TSU Laboratory of Translational Molecular and Cellular Biomedicine, Professor at Heidelberg University (Germany). -Under its pressure, the properties of macrophages change — the cells of the immune system that must protect us go over to the side of the malignant neoplasm and start working against the person — they emit tumor growth factors and help it metastasize. We decided to try to block these processes with the help of chitinase-like protein, which we managed to discover earlier.
According to Dr. Kzhyshkovska, to prevent the tumor from developing, it is necessary to prevent it from attracting monocytes to the problem area, which eventually differentiate into “bad” macrophages (M2). In some cases, for example, in breast cancer, they make up about half the mass of the tumor. The chitinase-like protein turned out to be a tool to block the migration of monocytes. Its effectiveness was tested during preclinical trials.
- Studies conducted on mice showed that this tool has even greater potential than was previously thought, she says. – The protein blocks the action of several cytokines (signal molecules), which attract fresh monocytes to the tumor zone. Such a complex effect is very important because turning off one cytokine can be unproductive and leaves a chance for others to work. In addition, the protein has another useful property - it prevents the formation of structures necessary for the migration of a monocyte.
Thus, chitinase-like protein disrupts the life support of the tumor, inhibits its progression, and leads to a reduction in the size of the tumor. Now scientists have to solve another important task - to find a way to deliver therapeutic protein into the tumor microenvironment. They plan to use nanoparticles as a vehicle.
- We will look for collaborators - experienced developers who have a great foundation in the creation of nanoparticles with the desired properties, - says the scientist of TSU and Heidelberg University. - It is necessary to design these systems very specifically so that they deliver the protein to the tumor and unfold there, so then we can achieve the desired result - block the tumor. The new method of treatment can be used both independently and in combination with chemotherapy.
Professor Julia Kzhyshkovska, Scientific Director of the Laboratory of Translational Molecular and Cellular Biomedicine at TSU, Head of the StrAU Institute of Biomedicine, Co-Chairman of the TSU Council of the Center for High Technologies in Medicine, and Head of Department of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Immunology of the Heidelberg University (Germany) is known in the scientific world as one of the leading experts in studying the molecular mechanisms of inflammation underlying the formation of malignant tumors and cardiovascular diseases.