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CXCR4 receptor provides therapeutic target for ovarian cancer

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Researchers have described a key cellular receptor in the processes of metastasis in ovarian cancer, the findings may lead to the use of CXCR4 inhibitors as a therapeutic target…

CXCR4 ovarian cancer

Researchers have described a key cellular receptor in the processes of metastasis in ovarian cancer the findings may lead to the use of inhibitors of the CXCR4 receptor as a therapeutic target in the most aggressive variants of the disease, in which a differential expression has been found.

The Molecular Signaling in Cancer group of the Oncobell program (Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute – IDIBELL) proCURE Program (Catalan Institute of Oncology – ICO) research team has succeeded in associating the expression of the CXCR4 receptor in ovarian tumour cells to their dissemination potential through the bloodstream. CXCR4 is a receptor involved in blood cell movement, which had previously been related to processes of dissemination in breast cancer.

In studies in orthotopic models, the researchers proved that administration of CXCR4 inhibitors in cancers where high expression of this receptor had previously been detected greatly decreased the propagation of the tumour cells at the blood level and within the peritoneum. At the same time, they have also observed that the genetic elimination of CXCR4 in cell culture gives rise to tumours with slower growth and a lower percentage of dissemination.

The IDIBELL-ICO researchers believe that studying the dissemination patterns of tumour cells is essential in order to understand and improve the prognosis of the disease. Their line of research focuses on identifying the molecules involved in this dissemination, which usually presents itself together with an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites).

“If we identify the factors that drive movement and implantation of tumor cells in new organs, we can try to block them in order to minimise the chances of metastasis; CXCR4 is not the only factor, but we have proved that it is one of them”, says Dr Agnès Figueras, first author of the study.

The diagnosis of ovarian cancer usually comes late; in 80% of cases, patients already show metastases or peritoneal dissemination that can affect vital organs of the digestive, circulatory or renal systems. On the other hand, although it is true that the combination of surgery and chemotherapy with platinum derivatives works very well, the percentage of recurrence of the disease at two years is 70%.

The research has been published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

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