Breast cancer: blocking the first steps in tumour invasion

Thanks to its own funding and to a large extent the generosity of the general public, this new PIC3i aims to decode the mechanisms used by the tumour to leave its original location. One benefit will be new treatment avenues.

Tumour invasion is an issue that Philippe Chavrier, CNRS director of research knows well: his Membrane and Cytoskeleton Dynamics team (CNRS/Institut Curie) has been studying the phenomenon for many years. He also coordinated a PIC, former version of the PIC3i, on the topic of "Breast cancer: invasion and motility", with the doctor and researcher Anne Vincent-Salomon. On the strength of his previous discoveries, the biologist is working on a new project to go even further. This time, the aim is to find molecules that block the spread of breast cancers.

When the tumour leaves its location...

When metastases have developed, the chances of women with breast cancer recovering from the disease are compromised. The first step in the spread consists of degrading the basal membrane holding back the tumour cells and remodelling the surrounding matrix to open up a pathway. "My team showed that it is protease MT1-MMP which digs a tunnel through the basal membrane", explains Philippe Chavrier. "In parallel, other studies have highlighted to role of TKS5 in arranging the micro-environment of the tumour to facilitate the spread of the breast cancer cells."

As part of this new programme, researchers are planning to evaluate the expression of TKS5, and its impact both in progression of the tumour and in concomitant phenomena. Furthermore, collaboration with the chemist Raphaël Rodriguez, CNRS head of research and head of the Organic synthesis and cell biology team ( (CNRS/Inserm/Institut Curie) and Elaine Del Nery, head of the phenotype screening platform BioPhenics, plans to look for inhibitors of the protease MT1-MMP and TKS5. "The automatic analyses made possible by the Biophenics platform will be used to confirm targets and identify more selective active chemical molecules", specifies Elaine de Nery, head of this platform. "Then, we will be able to refine the active compounds to enhance their efficacy and facilitate their inoculation in patients", concludes the chemist Raphaël Rodriguez.

By combining the skills of experts from other disciplines, Philippe Chavrier hopes to take a step further in his research for the benefit of women with breast cancer.


  • Philippe Chavrier,  head of Membrane and Cytoskeleton Dynamics team  (CNRS/Institut Curie)