Discovery to protect the liver from metastases

Dr. Rinat Abramovitch, the Goldyne Savad Institute of Gene Therapy

Metastasis remains the major driver of mortality in the Western world in patients with cancer. The liver, in particular, a large organ that filters and removes toxic substances from the blood, is the most attractive and fertile soil for circulating cancer cells that support metastasis development. Depending on the site of the primary tumor, 30-70% of patients dying of cancer have hepatic metastases and surgical resection offers around a 50% five-year survival rate for selected patients. Understanding the metastatic process may lead to the development of anti-metastatic therapies and provide a reduction in patient morbidity and mortality.

Dr. Rinat Abramovitch from the Hadassah’s Institute of Gene Therapy is a new breed of scientist, young and visionary who was referred to by ISRAEL21c, an English-language online news magazine as “the woman who tackles medical mysteries.” To attest to her unique research capabilities, Dr. Abramovitch has won two major grants to investigate whether bleeding and further blood resuscitation affects the liver’s natural capacity to regenerate, and how this happens. This particular research on hepatic metastasis and the recent positive results derived from it has the potential to attract and be supported by prestigious research grants.


Dr. Abramivitch’s research on liver metastasis is based on recently published clinical studies indicating that metastases occur less frequently in patients with fatty liver or chronic hepatitis. Her preliminary results revealed that the existence of a chronic hepatic inflammatory background in mice proactively obstructs colorectal liver metastatic dissemination. “Our approach is designed to gain a new perspective of the hepatic microenvironment’s contribution underlying inhibition of liver metastasis seeding and proliferation affecting the metastatic process” Dr. Abramovitch said. In this regard, the research team embarked on an investigative “fishing expedition” to compare two separate conditions of either suppressing the establishment of tumors or of supporting seeding. From the promising data emanating from these studies, she has recently uncovered a protein that is actually linked to the prevention of metastasis in the liver and potentially in other organs. This research will also select the candidate genes whose underlying mutations affect seeding of tumors. Dr. Abramovitch who is also an expert in MRI technology will benefit from the newly established small animal-PET/MRI and ultrasound imaging modalities where she will be able to visualize in live tissue the metastatic process in mouse models. The laboratory’s recent promising results in this investigation can open up a number of different new avenues of research where they can make many molecular inroads in the metastatic process, paving the way for clinical trials and the development of new anti-metastatic therapies. At this stage, the research team is working on characterizing a number of components in the system affecting the development/prevention of hepatic metastasis. This research has indeed the potential of being heralded as a major breakthrough in the fight against this dreadful phenomenon called metastasis.