A small step further, on the long road that researchers have taken to find a cure for cancer, has been made, thanks to the discovery published in the journal of the Academy of Sciences of the United States (Pnas) and led by Emanuele Jurisato, the Department of Molecular Medicine and Development of the University of Siena, with Cathy Tournier, the University of Manchester, and William Vermi, the University of Brescia. The team of scholars has identified a protein that allows tumors to grow and develop. Knowing it better and understanding its functioning could help block immune system cells called macrophages, which have long been among the facilitators of tumors. We talk about this topic with Professor Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director at Humanitas and Professor at Humanitas University.
A new track to follow to capture the “corrupt cops”
“Macrophages, known as immune sweeper cells, behave like corrupt policemen,” explained Professor Mantovani, “instead of doing their duty, they ally themselves with cancer cells and help them grow. What the researchers discovered was that this new identity of macrophages is made possible by the protein called ERK5. As shown by the tests carried out in the laboratory so far, which have succeeded in blocking the growth of tumors, eliminating it and thus reducing the number of macrophages and blocking their action, this protein could become the target of future anticancer drugs. “We have been able to demonstrate how the growth of carcinoma has been reduced in the absence of the ERK-5 protein, while at the same time an inflammatory anti-tumor situation has been created – Jurisato has discovered, among the supporters of the study. These results increase the possibility that going to pre-tumor macrophages through a therapy that suppresses the ERK-5 protein will be a new strategy for future cancer treatments. “A research that is undoubtedly important, – concluded Mantovani – we will see where it will be able to take us in the near future”.