Fundació HiTT (FHiTT) is developing a new targeted therapy to treat aggressive cancers. This treatment, unlike the current highly toxic and unspecific options available, will offer increased efficacy and reduce side-effects, enhancing the life expectancy and well-being of cancer patients.

Cancer is currently the second leading cause of death worldwide (second to cardiovascular diseases), accounting for 1 out of every 6 deaths. In 2020, an estimated 10M deaths were related to cancer. Among the different types of cancer, lung cancer presents the highest mortality (1.8M deaths), followed by colorectal (0.9M deaths), stomach (0.8M deaths) and liver (0.8M deaths) cancers.

Despite continuous R&D efforts to develop efficient cancer treatments, this deadly disease continues to elude the current therapies and remains a major sociosanitary problem.

These cancers are especially aggressive because malignant cells within the tumours have the ability to divide or proliferate rapidly. Cell division is a very demanding biological process that requires both abundant energy and building blocks, as for DNA replication, for example. Consequently, cancer cells present increased metabolic rates to sustain continuous growth. Of interest, this aberrant increase in metabolism is associated with metabolic stress and for the cancer cells to maintain their proliferative capacity, they are forced to cope with this stress by using specific molecular adaptative tools.

Our team has identified a promising novel strategy to treat these cancer types. This new approach involves targeting a protein that is essential for mediating the cellular response to a range of cellular insults including metabolic stress. Its inhibition will impair the metabolic adaptation and uncontrolled growth of cancer cells.

We at FHiTT are aiming to develop MEPRONIB (MEtabolic PROliferative iNhIBitor), a novel drug targeting this newly identified protein. With an initial focus on gastric cancer, this new therapy aims at becoming a promising platform to treat highly aggressive tumours. If successful, MEPRONIB will significantly impact on public health by increasing life expectancy of patients with resistant tumours.

This project has been selected by “la Caixa” Foundation to receive a CaixaReserach Validate grant to help advance it towards the market.