American scientists have identified a molecule that would act on both Covid-19 and cancer, two diseases that have nothing in common. What are these results worth?
Have scientists pinpointed a drug that cures both Covid-19 and cancer? These two diseases have nothing in common, yet a research team from the Keck School of Medicine from the University of Southern California has identified a small molecule, HA15, which decreases the replication of SARS-CoV-2 and which acts on certain cancers. How does it work?
Cells under stress need large amounts of a molecule, GRP78, to survive. The latter ensures the correct structure of the proteins synthesized by the cell. GRP78 is very useful to SARS-CoV-2, the virus hijacks its initial function to allow its replication. The scientific community is not yet agreed on the importance of GRP78 in the viral cycle of the coronavirus. Is it essential or not? And by extension, is it an interesting therapeutic target?
An anti-viral and anti-cancer molecule at the same time
To answer this question, the researchers conducted several experiments in vitro on lung cells with an mRNA that inhibits GRP78. They then observed that the lung cells produce fewer virions and that these infect neighboring cells with greater difficulty. ” We have direct evidence that GRP78 is a proviral protein that is essential for virus replication », claims Amy S. Leeresearcher at the head of this work. In-vivomice infected with the coronavirus have a reduced viral load in the lungs when they are treated with the molecule HA15.
In another study, appeared in neoplasia, Amy S. Lee’s team highlighted an anti-cancer property of HA15. The molecule inhibits the activity of the oncogene Kras, a mutated gene in many cancers that promotes the proliferation of malignant cells. Already, in 2020, the anti-cancer properties of HA15 interested scientists. A Chinese team had shown that the molecule caused the death of cancer cells in the lung by apoptosis.
Fragile preliminary elements
Promising results that are talking about within the Keck School of Medicine, because Amy S. Lee’s work is an answer to a study published in 2021, conducted within the same university by other researchers. The authors of the 2021 study reacted to this new publication, emphasizing that for them there are still too few elements for GRP78 to be considered a solid therapeutic target to treat Covid-19. Both parties agree that these are simple proofs of principle and that much work remains to ensure that the HA15 molecule is safe and effective before testing it on volunteers in a clinical trial.