New discovery in cancer research could lead to new treatment options

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In 2016, there will be more than 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States, and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths.

Now, for the first time, scientists have identified the pathways that allow cancers to spread and that could lead to a breakthrough for new treatments.

It’s not the cancer itself, but the metastasis, the spreading of the cancer to other parts of the body that often proves lethal. That’s why discovering the metabolic pathways by which it spreads will save lives.

"So developing drugs that would inhibit that process would be completely transformative in the lives of cancer patients," said Dr. Ralph Deberardinis, an associate professor at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern.

The Children’s Medical Center Research team at UT Southwestern found a different form of metabolism within the cancer cells that allow them to live and grow while spreading away from their original location.

"The metabolism of a cancer cell is different from the metabolism of a normal cell, okay," said Dr. Deberardinis.

The cancer cells they study come from living cancer patients. While most treatments are directed towards specific tumors, drugs developed from this research will target the pathways, like water putting out a fire, to stop the deadly spread of cancer.

"The most exciting thing by far is that this could be a new way to curtail metastasis in cancer patients," said Dr. Deberardinis.

That could someday save thousands of lives. The researchers say more study will need to be done to test the role of the pathway in living organisms, before new drugs can be developed.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY

TOPIC: Stopping the Spread of Cancer
REPORT: MB #4165
BACKGROUND: Cancer metabolism refers to the alterations in cellular metabolism pathways that are evident in cancer cells compared with most normal tissue cells counterparts — is growing. In general, tumor cells metabolize glucose, lactate, pyruvate, hydroxybutyrate, acetate, glutamine, and fatty acids at much higher rates than their nontumour equivalents; however, the metabolic ecology of tumors is complex because they contain multiple metabolic compartments, which are linked by the transfer of these catabolites. Targeting the metabolic differences between tumor and normal cells holds promise as a novel anticancer strategy. Cancer cells reprogram their metabolism and that of other cells within the tumor microenvironment in order to survive, thus driving disease progression; in particular, potential metabolic vulnerabilities that might be targeted therapeutically for cell growth and proliferation.

(Source: https://www.mskcc.org/research-areas/topics/cancer-metabolism )

RECENT DISCOVERY: Recent research has demonstrated that cancer cells have developed highly regulated processes for nutrient consumption and utilization. Cancer cells alter their consumption and the way they process sugars, fats, amino acids and other energy sources to satisfy the demands of continuous proliferation. Together, these proliferation-supporting processes represent a cellular phenomenon called “metabolic rewiring.” The development of cancer metabolism inhibitors and the possibility of combining them with existing therapeutic approaches could have a profound anticancer effect and fundamentally change the treatment of cancer. Cancer metabolism therefore represents a powerful new lens for studying cancer that complements traditional areas of focus such as genetics and signaling.

(Source: http://www.nature.com/nrclinonc/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nrclinonc.2016.60.html )

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS REPORT, PLEASE CONTACT:

Katie Regan
Public Relations
214-648-2378
Katie.regan@utsouthwestern.edu