Cancer Research: The Pope's Hospital Makes Great Advances

April 29, 2021

Bambino Gesu researchers have just shed light on one of the causes of the process that leads to tumor formation. This is a discovery that opens the way to new forms of therapy to neutralize the defense system of cancer cells.

Curing cancer: what is still a dream in 2021 will become, perhaps tomorrow, a reality, thanks to the discovery made by the Bambino Gesu pediatric hospital.

Researchers from the Holy See's health care facility, in collaboration with Tor Vergata University in Rome, and other research centers in Europe and the United States, have just published the results of their research on cycles of cell division.

The goal was to understand the process by which cells mature and proliferate to give rise to cancerous tumors.

The researchers observed proteins involved in the regulation of the cell cycle, cyclins D. But the control of the latter is debated.

The recent discovery has shown that they are conditioned by an enzyme that plays a switch-like role, turning them on or off: CRL4/Ambra1 or CRL4/DCAF3.

When Ambra1 is absent, or in insufficient quantity, it cannot play its role: cyclins D are not destroyed within the normal framework of cell regulation, and accumulate.

As a result, cells begin to divide at an uncontrolled rate, DNA is damaged, and tumor masses form.

In other words, the Bambino Gesu researchers have shown that the tumor process finds one of its causes in an imbalance between the levels of cyclins D and Ambra1.

It is therefore on this imbalance that new therapies could focus on inhibiting the repair system: if the enzymes that allow cells to survive and proliferate are inhibited, diseased cells can eventually self-destruct.

The results of research carried out so far in cellular and animal models with a set of specific drugs known as “repair system inhibitors” have yielded encouraging results, but scientists are only at the beginning.

In the near future, the dosage of these two proteins for people with cancer could therefore make it possible to arrive more quickly at diagnoses and more effective treatments, notably for cases of children whose nervous system is in its growth phase.

The results of this research conducted in Rome were confirmed by two other international studies conducted in New York and San Francisco. The results of these three studies were published together in the journal Nature, one of the world’s leading scientific research publications.