• An international team develops a new molecule to fight head and neck tumors

    May 03, 2016

    The discovery reveals in animal models that peptide AMP-18 delays the growth of these tumors and alleviates the adverse effects of radiotherapy

    Combined effect of AMP-18 and radiotherapy in induced oral mucositis

    International researchers have developed a new molecule that, in animal models, has proved therapeutic efficiency in head and neck cancer treatments. The novel peptide, derived from protein AMP-18, not only delays but also alleviates the adverse effects of radiotherapy. This discovery is the result of the collaboration of different groups of the University of Chicago, University of Harvard, the Women Hospital of Boston and the University of Oviedo.

    The work, recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, is based on a novel peptide –a type of molecules consisting of a compound of several amino acids—that takes part in the growth of normal epithelial cells, and mitigates radiation-induced oral mucositis in animal models, while suppressing cancer cells. The study evaluated the therapeutic effects of AMP-18 (gastrokine-1) in a clinically relevant animal model of head and neck cancer. To this end, during the experiment, researchers injected this type of cells into the anterior tongue and in the tumors that were also subject to a radiotherapy treatment. Tumor size was analyzed using an in vivo images system and the extent of oral mucositis was compared between animals treated with AMP peptide or a vehicle group.

    The study, in which mathematicians of the University of Oviedo take part, has been published in the journal ‘PLOS ONE'.

    Juan Luis Fernández Martínez, director of the Group of Inverse Problems, Optimization and Automative Learning of the Department of Mathematics of the University of Oviedo, states that these results showed a "synergy" between the administration of this peptide and the radiation therapy. So, tumors treated with this molecule showed a slower growth compared to the ones that were only treated with radiotherapy. Moreover, AMP-18 delayed the onset of tumors and reduced the severity of oral mucositis induced by radiotherapy.

    Professor Juan Luis Fernández Martínez highlights that the collaboration of the University of Oviedo relied on the bioinformatic analysis of the genetic information involved after the administration of the molecule to the tumor cells. The group of the Asturian academic institution focused on the study of the gene expression at different times after administering the drug and on the search for the changes regarding non-tumorous cell cohort. According to this researcher, this is the way to find the medical genomic effects of the drug tested and its mechanism of action.

    Juan Luis Fernández Martínez adds that this work is a clear example of how the multidisciplinary collaboration between groups of doctors and mathematicians may be beneficial for the analysis of very complex problems". The Group of Inverse Problems of the University of Oviedo has had a fluid relationship with other international institutions since 2013. The Universities of Chicago, Harvard and the Women Hospital of Boston are world-wide leaders in the use of pre-clinical models and their application to clinical-traslational medicine.

    Most of the neck and head tumors are biologically similar. 90% of them are squamous cell carcinomas. These tumors are born in the epithelium of these areas. The discovery, according to the researchers in charge, also provides a new opportunity for the future use of the peptide AMP-18in human treatments.


    • A Novel Peptide for Simultaneously Enhanced Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer and Mitigation of Oral Mucositis. A Novel Peptide for Simultaneously Enhanced Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer and Mitigation of Oral Mucositis.
    • Peili Chen, Maria Mancini, Stephen T Sonis, Juan Luis Fernández-Martínez, Jing Liu, Ezra E W Cohen, F Gary Toback. Apr 2016 PLoS ONE 11(4)

    Cover picture: images taken by a PET-TAC.