Breaking the link which leads to blood cancers and avoiding certain thromboses


Belgian researchers have just deciphered the mechanisms linked to certain forms of blood cancer, paving the way for the development of drugs which did not exist until now.

Myeloproliferative neoplasms are blood cancers which often cause abdominal thrombosis. Almost one in 1,500 people, or more than 7,000 in Belgium and 300,000 in the European Union, would be affected.

For more than two decades, a team from the de Duve Institute at UCLouvain and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research has played a leading role in discovering the causes of these diseases. And this team has just uncovered a very precise mechanism which could lead to the development of a much more targeted treatment than the drugs currently under development. This latest discovery has been published in Nature Communications.

Thanks to the extremely precise mapping of the binding between the mutated calreticulin and the TPO receptor, the Belgian scientists have been able to determine the exact location where small molecules would have to be placed in order to dissociate or block the complex, thereby providing a picture of the receptor for the first time.

It should be remembered that there is currently no medication for treating this disease. The pharmaceutical industry is trying to develop antibodies which could bind to the mutated calreticulin in order to block its pathological action. Difficulty: as they are present on the surface of the cells but also in the plasma, the doses of antibodies required would be high, with the risk of increasing side effects.

The Belgian discovery published in Nature Communications opens up a new, more precise and promising avenue: attempting to develop a molecule which will break the bond between the mutated calreticulin and the receptor. In a way, we would be going straight to the point by targeting the precise binding region of the two complementary proteins.

Long-term research which opens the way to a cure for many patients!