London: In pioneering research on models of human tumours in mice, researchers have successfully blocked metastasis - the strategy adopted by tumour cells to transform into an aggressive form of cancer.
According to researchers from Universite catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium, blocking metastasis or even prevent their formation would be a giant step in the fight against cancer.
The researchers achieved this feat by studying mitochondria in tumour cells.
These organelles are considered the cells' powerhouse.
"When their functioning is altered, the mitochondria can promote cell migration, thus leading to the formation of metastasis," said professor Pierre Sonveaux from Universite catholique de Louvain's Institute of Experimental and Clinical Research (IREC).
Sonveaux's team examined the molecular mechanism responsible for the mitochondria's ability to promote metastasis.
They succeeded in showing that under certain conditions, the mitochondria produce more free radicals known as superoxide ions.
It is this overproduction of superoxide that leads to the formation of metastasis and, consequently, the growth of a tumour, they found.
"The production of superoxide by mitochondria can be blocked by very specific antioxidants," Sonveaux added.
These compounds turned out to be very efficient at blocking the migration of tumour cells and preventing the spontaneous formation of human tumour metastasis in mice, the study, published in the journal Cell Reports, said.