Research identifies new approach to stopping the spread of cancer: Metastasis Prophylaxis

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

It is not possible to guarantee that once cancer patients have completed treatment, that the cancer will never come back, or “recur”. Outcomes of recurrence are particularly found in patients with metastatic cancers – cancers that have spread around the body. Unfortunately, around 90% of cancer patients die from metastasis.


As treatment of metastatic cancer is incredibly difficult or costly, attention naturally turns to prevention, which is poorly understood, and there are currently no known MHRA or FDA-approved drugs that can be used for the prevention of metastasis.

The medical community recognise that the growth of cancer stem cells (CSCs) is one of the underlying causes of tumour recurrence, cancer spread, and treatment failure, across different cancer types. Research conducted at the Translational Medicine Laboratory at the University of Salford, has identified five new drug candidates, that effectively inhibit metastasis involving CSCs, in pre-clinical models of human breast cancer, with little or no toxicity. This new approach identified by researchers at the University paves the way for studies leading to a new way to treat cancer patients, allowing for metastasis prevention or prophylaxis.

Most existing chemotherapeutic agents inhibit tumour growth, but not metastasis. The drugs identified here as part of the research inhibit metastasis, having little or no effect on tumour growth. This shows that metastasis is a fundamentally different process than tumour growth. 

Professor Michael P. Lisanti, MD-PhD, Chair of Translational Medicine, said: “Our pre-clinical research looked at five mitochondrial inhibitors that were found to have minor or no effect on tumour formation, but had notable effects such as the potent inhibition of tumour cell metastasis. This research shows that mitochondrial inhibitors could be employed to develop new treatment protocols, for clinically providing metastasis prophylaxis, to help prevent poor outcomes in cancer patients.”

The research was co-authored by Dr. Bela Ozsvari, Professor Federica Sotgia and Professor Michael P. Lisanti and was published in the biomedical journal Aging. The paper identifies that in cancer models novel mitochondrial inhibitors prevent metastasis and have the potential to be used as a new strategy for cancer therapy, with very limited toxicity. 


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