Pr. Janine Mauzeroll’s research in Découvrir

Cancer cells are making resistance.

The cancer cell does not allow itself to be intoxicated without resistance, and to expel “the enemy” outside its membrane borders is one of its defense techniques. To do this, it uses pumps, a kind of motor structure made up of proteins, which reject chemotherapy drugs to the outside. In addition to making the treatment ineffective, this reaction has important repercussions on the viability of healthy cells, which does not translate into major side effects for the patient. But if you want to understand and possibly control cell resistance, you still need to be able to observe and measure it.

This is what interests Janine Mauzeroll, professors in the Department of Chemistry at UQAM and specialist in electrochemistry of biological systems. Supported, among other things, by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (CRSNG), his research aims to “develop” a bioanalytical method that quantifies the multi-drug resistance of cancer cells “.

The observations of the researcher and her team are possible thanks to scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM), a technology first used for the analysis of metallic surfaces and which now offers the opportunity to probe biological systems. This microscope is composed of a microelectrode, a thin metallic wire which, swept over the cell, detects fluxes, that is to say variations in concentration in space and in time.

Scanning electrochemical microscopy

Scanning electrochemical microscopy offers a global vision of the path taken by electroactive molecules which enter the cell to react with the oxidized form of a molecule, glutathione. “We can also observe a loop path when the electroactive species generated at the electrode diffuse and react with the reduced form of glutathione which is expelled out of the cell under the effect of cellular pumps. But to measure this phenomenon well, we We must draw up, under the effect of drugs, the electrochemical imaging of non-resistant cancer cells and compare it with the response of those that resist, “summarizes the researcher.

This bio-analytical method, which is based on electrochemical analyzes, could possibly test additives to current chemotherapy treatments, in order to minimize the endurance of cancer cells. “Often it is the dose that is not properly calibrated, much like antibiotic resistance.” Activating the pumps makes the cell stronger and stronger, and you should, for example, be able to delay this defense mechanism and give the drug time to act on the cancer cell.

“The ultimate goal would be to have multi-drug resistance under control, but it is unlikely that we will be able to completely destroy it,” said Janine Mauzeroll. On the other hand, the improvement of the treatments which exist today to fight against cancer, would translate concretely by a reduction of the side effects and therefore by a better quality of life for the patients.

The cancer cell does not live in an enclosed space. In interaction with its environment, it defends itself, survives and optimizes its adaptability. Multi-drug resistance presents a major obstacle for researchers, but each scientific advance in this field helps to better understand the disease and to adapt the treatments that prevent its progression.