The Achille’s heel of chromosomal instable cancers

Publishing the research results is a major aspect of a researcher’s life. How these results are published can have a major impact on research and its community. What happens if we share outcomes openly, make data public, publish the comments received from colleagues, or test the academic outcomes of other researchers? This falls under the denominator of Open Science, as part and parcel of academic quality. At UMCG, we promote the principles of Open Science by putting every month the spotlight on an academic article that scores well on certain aspects of Open Science, like open data, open peer review, open source, open access reproducibility.

This month we focus on interdisciplinary collaboration with the Open Science Publication of the Month October: cGAS–STING drives the IL-6-dependent survival of chromosomally instable cancers by Christy Hong, Michael Schubert, Andréa E. Tijhuis, Marta Requesens, Maurits Roorda, Anouk van den Brink, Lorena Andrade Ruiz, Petra L. Bakker, Tineke van der Sluis, Wietske Pieters, Mengting Chen, René Wardenaar, Bert van der Vegt, Diana C. J. Spierings, Marco de Bruyn, Marcel A. T. M. van Vugt & Floris Foijer published in Nature volume 607 (June 2022).

Exploiting inflammation processes in cancers

Chromosomal instability leads to errors in chromosome segregation in mitotis and thus an abnormal DNA content, known as aneuploidy. In their publication, Floris Foijer and his colleagues showed that chromosomal instability is an important trait in cancer cells and causes an inflammatory response that, by using the signaling cytokine IL-6, helps cancer cells to survive. Consequently, inhibiting IL-6 signaling could be a powerful strategy to stop the growth of aggressive cancers. To block IL-6 signaling, they tested the clinically-approved drug tocilizumab, which is used to treat e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, and could show that tocilizumab indeed impairs the growth of chromosomally instable cancers in cell lines and mouse models. 

Interested in this research? Read this summary: Anti-inflammatory drug potential medicine for aggressive cancers

True interdisciplinary results

In this project, both molecular and translational cancer researchers worked closely together to understand how chromosome instable cancers work and what can be used inhibit them. These findings will now be further extrapolated for other cancer cell lines, and clinical trial protocols are being prepared to next test these findings in patients. 

Open Science practices

This article was not published open access. Although Nature allows open access publishing since June 2022, they ask for a steep contribution of 9600 Euros per article. “I seriously considered it, asked for institutional support, and checked my budgets from various funds, but 10K per article is not something that I have planned in advance”, says Floris Foijer.  

So Dr. Foijer used other methods to make his article as visible as possible. “Nature gave me a link for free access, so you can read it, but cannot download the PDF. I used this link widely and shared through social media”, he explains. He also believes that institutions can make a great difference if they help individual researchers to share their results. In his department, they created an outreach team for this purpose. 
Open access and other open science processes are not actively enforced in his department, but everybody does it anyway. “I would feel guilty if I wouldn’t do it, it is something we all intrinsically want to do”.