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Study of metastasis


Metastasis of cancer may cause as many, if not more, deaths than cancer itself. Amongst other reasons, this is because it is very difficult to know where the new tumour is going to develop. Moreover, the mechanisms of metastasis are still not well understood, although a lot of research into it is taking place and advances are being made. Dominion Pharmakine is a company located at the Bizkaia Technological Park where they are studying metastasis.

At times, a cell in our body may suffer a mutation and starts to multiply in an uncontrolled manner. All the cells thus formed result in a tumour which interferes in the form and functions of the tissue of which it is part. Moreover, the tumour provokes the creation of new blood vessels, which assures a good food supply.

If the tumour limits itself to growing, it is said to be a benign tumour and, in most cases, does not require treatment. But, if malignant, it must be treated. If not extirpated, pharmaceutical drugs have to be used to combat the tumour. But the tumour usually has a number of defence mechanisms. One of these is a proteic layer difficult to penetrate by some of these drugs. Dominion Pharmakine is studying which these area and also the suitability of the molecular targets used by the new drugs for bonding to the pathological cells, i.e. they are trying to identify the molecule that best offers the possibility of penetration of the unhealthy cell.

But unfortunately, malign tumours, apart from growing, may spread throughout the body, i.e. they may produce a metastasis. Some of the cells separate from the tumour and are carried to other parts of the body through the blood system, via the newly-formed vessels. Once in the blood system, it is distributed through the whole body until they attach themselves to some new tissue and initiate a new tumour.

Metastasis initiates as a consequence of two changes in the genetic expression and protein synthesis that occur in the initial tumour. Dominion Pharmakine is also investigating the relationship between this genetic expression and metastasis. From this information, two objectives are sought: on the one hand, predicting the evolution of the tumour using the genetic expression arising and, on the other, designing new specific drugs based on this expression.

The Dominion Pharmakine company was formed as a spin off of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of the Basque Country.

Eneko Imaz | Basque Research
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