Cancer cells adapt energy to grow

22 September 2014

A new study has found that cancer cells may adapt energy to allow the disease to spread through the body. The research is the first to suggest that cancer cells operate differently at the site of the tumour compared to those that travel elsewhere in the body.

Scientists at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center found that cancer cells that travel away from the original tumour site have different energy needs from their "stay-at-home" counterparts, which continue to proliferate at the original tumour site. 

The study, published online in Nature Cell Biology, suggested that this difference could be the result of the protein PGC-1α, which plays a crucial role in regulating cellular metabolism. It appears that this protein is key for helping cancer cells acquire more energy to allow them to travel and spread throughout the body.

This finding could potentially lead to new treatment options to stop the migrating cells from getting the additional energy necessary to allow them to travel, by inhibiting PGC-1α.

Cancer's ability to spread or metastasise is the primary cause of cancer-related death, which means that better understanding of how it migrates around the body could save lives.

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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