A new therapeutic tool to fight melanoma

The teams of chemists and biologists from the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, the CNRS and Inserm have developed a molecule that pushes cancer cells to suicide without affecting healthy cells


Since the Middle Ages, Galega officinalis has been known to have anti-diabetic properties. At the beginning of the 20th century, its two active components, guanidine and galegine, were isolated. One was toxic; the other not very effective. It was not until the 1950s that a French medical doctor modified the structure of galegine and created a component that was much less toxic and very effective against diabetes: metformin, which has become an indispensable drug for millions of patients worldwide. Only a few years ago, metformin was discovered to be equally effective for an indication other than diabetes – cancer.

However, there was a problem: it was only effective at very high doses, and more importantly, it was less effective than other existing treatments.

The teams of chemists and biologists led by Drs. Rachid BENHIDA, CNRS Research Director at Institut de Chimie de Nice (ICN UMR 7272 CNRS Université Nice Sophia Antipolis), and Stéphane ROCCHI, Inserm Research Director at Centre Méditerranéen de Médecine Moléculaire (C3M U1065 Inserm Université Nice Sophia Antipolis CHU de Nice); as well as Dr. Cyril RONCO, Associate Professor at Université Nice Sophia Antipolis, have decided to invent new molecules derived from the structure of metformin, both more effective and more bioavailable. After testing hundreds of molecules, they selected a drug-candidate called “CRO15”. This molecule is not only 1,000 times more active than metformin but also more effective than a reference anti-cancer therapy on melanoma. The molecule triggers specifically cancer cells’ suicide, without affecting healthy cells. It may even be effective in other cancers such as prostate and breast cancers. It acts on two targets: the AMPK pathway, like metformin, and on a new pathway identified and characterized in the laboratory. This makes CRO15 a completely new molecule.

Today, SATT Sud-Est, which is supporting the project with an ambitious maturation program, is looking for industrial partners capable of continuing the development of the project and then launching the first human clinical trials.

Cancer patients may then have a new therapeutic tool to improve their chances to fight off their disease.

The technology is available at licensing, for more information, contact licensing@sattse.com