There is fierce competition in the ocean habitat. In order to survive there, marine organisms defend themselves against their rivals using an entire arsenal of chemical weapons. With the help of these substances they attack hostile cells, overcome their defence system and thus are interesting active substance candidates for cancer research. The Tyrolean Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine Oncotyrol screens within the European research consortium OPTATIO marine extracts and active substances in search of new methods against multiple myeloma, a tumour of the bone marrow. At the recently held 1st Drug Screening Discussion in Innsbruck Oncotyrol scientist Winfried Wunderlich presented the first promising results.
OPTATIO (OPtimizing TArgets and Therapeutics In high risk and refractOry Multiple Myeloma) is a consortium of twelve European partners, including Oncotyrol. The Multiple Myeloma is addressed by collaborative efforts in the OPTATIO consortium because it is a very complex and still incurable disease. Therefore it is important that several countries and institutions share their know-how and resources to tackle one of the eight most lethal cancers in Europe. OPTATIO is directed by Wolfgang Willenbacher of the Innsbruck Medical University. It was established at the beginning of 2012 with a budget of 4.3 million Euros for three years. First results of the research activity are visible now.
Up to now, research on multiple myeloma cancer cells has frequently considered them as isolated entities. However, this approach disregards the fact that the environment of the bone marrow, in particular the stromal bone tissue, the immune cells and the connective tissue cells, protects cancer cells with the aid of different substances in a so-called niche. In this biochemical shelter drugs are often not effective in patients although they have been successful in laboratory tests on isolated cancer cells. Or they are ineffective in the long term because the cancer cells become resistant. OPTATIO pursues the unique strategy to get through this protective shield for a better cancer treatment. In doing so, marine-based active substances are especially attractive candidates as they have evolutionarily proven their capacity to survive in the chemical fight of marine organisms.