Pancreatic cancer, a revolution in Poitiers

Pancreatic cancers, a growing epidemic “, infrequent, but constantly increasing: approximately +10% since the 1980s. Above all, their prognosis, among the darkest in oncology, has hardly improved, unlike that of other tumours. According to forecasts, by 2030, they could even become the second leading cause of cancer death behind bronchial tumours. In Charente, for example, screening for tumor patients has jumped 51% since 2008.

20% of operable cases

With poor prognoses, it is in small steps that medicine must apprehend the patients, in particular by the traditional treatment under the triptych “surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy”, disconcerted by the low rate of remission. “There are only 20% of operable casessays Sébastien Papot. And again, when the disease is detected early enough, often by chance. » Faced with the disease, a patient should hardly survive more than 12 months on average.

Seekyo’s idea: therapeutic vectorization. The concept, which has given rise to a considerable variety of nanotechnology tools, is unknown to the general public. Yet it is one of the most innovative in modern medicine. The idea is “to associate drugs with molecular structures capable of transporting the active ingredient they contain to the exact place where it must come into action in an organ, a tissue or a cell”, then specifies Sébastien Papot. At the beginning of September, the scientist, in full conference of the prestigious European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry and Chemical Biology (1), projects a huge image of a spaceship in the process of shooting a tumor, in front of a taped floor.

New molecules capable of seeking, detecting and destroying tumours.

“Well, I went a bit too hard but the idea is thathe concedes. It is to create new anti-cancer molecules capable of seeking, detecting and destroying tumors without affecting healthy tissue. » Why do these cancers resist chemotherapy? The effectiveness of a drug would depend on the state of compression of the tumour: the more the cancerous cells are squeezed by their neighbors, sick or healthy, the less the chemotherapy works. It’s like entering a crowded subway car to join someone at the other end of the cabin without touching the others. SKY01 then appears as a real homing head, only active in the presence of the tumor, in contact with it. We then speak of “smart medicine”.

“The sinews of war, in this area, are money and timeconcedes Outy Chetboun, president of Seekyo. It is about fundamental research. There, our strength is that after years of tests on mice, the results are more than positive because the toxicity is at its lowest or even non-existent. The data is even such as to engage us in human testing. » A considerable advance at this stage of research which could pave the way, in the long term, to commercialization (box).

Sébastien Papot moderates: “You want a scoop, men are not mice, so we will first see how patients react. Research time is not media time. We are aware of the hopes and expectations that this may arouse, but nothing has been done. The adventure begins now. »

(1) The professor works within the Institute of Chemistry of Environments and Materials of the University of Poitiers (IC2MP).

fundraising race

No money, no research. The rule is immemorial. In the scientific world, we even see a decline in French prestige: publications at half mast, declining financial means, low salaries, fractures between rich and poor laboratories, tenured and precarious would even sign the end of the exception of the French model in the landscape. global. “Today, the competition is fierce, it is out of the question for laboratories to finance a project before the testsconfides Sébastien Papot. Scientists, like us, go through the creation of start-ups and must take all the risks, for better or for worse. » On January 20, 2020, his company Seekyo announced a first fundraising of 800,000 euros. In 2021, 650,000 euros were still collected from business angels (donors) and Bpifrance. While his team is ready to finally test the drug on tumors from patients, Sébastien Papot concedes having to raise nearly 1.5 million euros to start the study. More than a third would have been found, “knowing that the development and marketing of the drug, subsequently, amount to one billion euros”. A phase that would only occur in 6 to 10 years.

Originally, four chemistry students, including a Charentais…

Seven years ago, Charente libre reported it in its pages: “Four chemistry students in Poitiers have just launched an association. They are looking to raise money to fund research into a new form of chemotherapy. »
2015, Geoffrey Jabs, originally from L’Isle-d’Espagnac, founded the Therapeutic Impact association in October with three other comrades from the faculty of chemistry. He follows the courses of Sébastien Papot, already awarded in 2011 for his work on “Trojan horses”, selected for the Charente Prize of the League against cancer in the amount of 25,000 euros. Between two confidences, the professor-researcher at the head of the team, evokes a discovery and “the impossibility of going further due to lack of funds” : “A so-called intelligent molecule that allows chemotherapy to be initiated without side effects by targeting only diseased cells. » The apprentice chemists, via the association, will travel the region, including the Charente, in order to raise 550,000 euros. CL readers will also participate to the tune of 1,500 euros.
“It’s a human story above allexplains Charles Ciriac, now a doctoral student in molecular microbiology and president of Therapeutic Impact. We are always active in communicating about Sébastien Papot’s research and its progress, even if his company is now moving into the big leagues. The radiation became immense for what was basically a small structure. It is its strength and an example. At a time when brains and small French labs are going abroad to benefit from larger and easier to access funding, Seekyo wants to prosper on the territory. The sector is ultra-competitive, especially in cancer research. Seekyo is clearly doing well.”

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