Cell Reports

Researchers from GIGA-Cancer demonstrates the efficacy of a natural molecule for the treatment of colon cancer resistant to targeted therapy.

The research work carried out by Dr. Justine Bellier, a young Télévie researcher, under the supervision of Dr. Akeila Bellahcène, Research Director at the Fund for Scientific Research - FNRS, made it possible to identify a natural molecule, produced by our body, and that lifts the resistance of colon cancer cells to targeted therapy. These results are the subject of an article published in Cell Reports this week.


arnosine, a molecule that has many protective activities, including that of fighting against a toxic product linked to glucose metabolism, methylglyoxal. Cancer cells prefer glucose as fuel (which allows them to be viewed by PETscan) and produce much more methylgyoxal than normal cells. The latter, today considered an onco-metabolite, that is to say a compound which promotes the development of cancers, allows colon cancer cells to escape from targeted therapy. Carnosine administered in non-toxic doses to mice not only very significantly slows the progression of human colon tumors that have become resistant to targeted therapy, but above all restores their sensitivity to this drug. This resistance very often appears in patients with advanced colon cancer, which leaves little possibility of treatment.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in our country but the number two killer. The chances of survival are greatly reduced when cells have metastasized in the liver. With more than 9,000 colon cancers diagnosed each year (24 per day), it causes 9 deaths per day in Belgium. The results published by the team of the Metastasis Research Laboratory at GIGA-Cancer (University of Liège) open up encouraging prospects in order to help patients to better fight this aggressive type of cancer. The practical benefits to patients could be fast (after clinical studies on patients) because carnosine is a non-toxic substance already administered to diabetic patients to reduce the complications associated with this disease. Dr. Bellahcène's team had previously shown that carnosine has anti-metastatic activities in triple negative breast cancers. Encouraging preliminary results also show activity against other types of cancer. These studies should be able to continue thanks to the support of Télévie.


Bellier et al., Methylglyoxal Scavengers Resensitize KRAS-Mutated Colorectal Tumors to Cetuximab, Cell Reports (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2020.01.012



Dr Akeila Bellahcène, Research Director FNRS, Laboratoiry of Metastasis Research, GIGA-Cancer, Université de Liège, +32 4 366 25 57, A.Bellahcene@uliege.be

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