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According to a pre-clinical trial conducted at the Institute of Oncology Research, aging cells play a vital role in metastases formation and the study has identified a drug that can block them. The findings by the researchers from the US, Italy, and Switzerland led by Prof Andrea Alimonti, offer vital information regarding personalized patient therapy.

The study identifies a gene responsible for metastases formation and its treatment

After receiving specific therapy, aging tumor cells usually stop increasing and the cell aging process is often referred to as senescence. Interestingly in cancer therapy drugs induce the process of slowing tumor growth. But in certain conditions, the senescent tumor cells can take a different path often undesirable in therapy becoming aggressive leading to the formation of metastases.

Study findings indicated that researchers identified the TIMP1 gene to be responsible for pushing senescent tumor cells to be active in metastases formation. Most importantly if the gene is inactivated or lost there is reprogramming of factors that the senescent cells release to a leve3l that makes the tumor cells invasive and more aggressive leading to metastases. The IOR conducted the study in collaboration with ETH Zurich and the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine. Researchers demonstrated that inactivation or absence of TIMP1 and PTEN, which is another gene responsible for metastases, occurs mostly in prostate cancer cases. This correlates with treatment resistance of the tumor and results in severe clinical outcomes.

Senolytic drugs can kill senescent tumor cells

Following the findings and this information, the researchers attempted to identify a route for use of senolytic drugs that kill senescent tumor cells beginning with the assumption of the vital role the drugs play in halting the process. Prof Alimonti said that the results of the study are directing towards personalized cancer therapy. He said that the patient’s genetic factors can determent if senescence has a positive impact on cancer growth or a negative impact on triggering metastases formation. When stopping the formation of metastases it is important to use chemotherapeutic drugs that induce senescence cautiously but instead, senolytic drugs killing senescent cells should be employed.