Cancer treatment

Tel Aviv University researchers discovered a novel approach to target cancer cells.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have discovered that the abnormal number of chromosomes in cancerous cells could prove to be the “Achilles heel” of the disease, paving the way for future drugs to attack the new-found weak spot.

While researchers have known for decades about the abnormal number of chromosomes of cancer cells, a unique characteristic known as “aneuploidy,” their understanding of how aneuploidy contributes to the development and spread of cancer has been limited.

TAU researchers discovered the critical point at which cancerous aneuploid cancer cells are sensitive to damage (the mitotic checkpoint) and the reason for heightened sensitivity in this location.

Drugs that target this mechanism could represent major breakthroughs in personalized cancer medicine.

The results of the TAU-led study suggest that it will be possible to use aneuploidy as a biological marker to identify patients who would respond better to specific drugs.

The study at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine was done in collaboration with six other laboratories in four other countries and was published last week in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nature.

According to Dr. Uri Ben-David, aneuploidy is the most common genetic change in cancer. Approximately 90% of solid tumors, such as breast cancer and colon cancer, and 75% of blood cancers are aneuploid in nature.

“It should be emphasized that the study was done on cells in a culture and not on cancer patients,” said Dr. Ben-David. “In order to translate it to treatment of cancer patients, many more follow-up studies must be performed. Still, even at this stage it is clear that the study could have a number of medical implications.”