The study has been compiled by an interdisciplinary research group of molecular biologists, computational biologists, and clinicians from the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel, as stated in a press release. Nicola Aceto from the Department of Biomedicine of the two research institutions is quoted as saying “We didn’t want to follow the standard approach and look for drugs that kill cancer cells, rather sought to identify drugs that can render cell clusters ineffective”.
These clusters are formed when circulating tumour cells leave the primary tumour and combine in groups. They are the precursors of metastases. This cluster formation leads to a chemical change at cell level that influences growth. The approach by Basel researchers is designed to reverse these changes. To do this, they have tested a number of drugs that have already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration approval agency. They found substances that cause the dissociation of clusters and therefore prevent the formation of new metastases.
The success of the Basel researchers is also based on their interdisciplinary cooperation, and as Aceto says: “Our methodology is positioned directly at the interface between these different disciplines. We are already working on the next step, which is to conduct a clinical trial with breast cancer patients. “