In their hunger to find ways to cure cancer, scientists may have found a method to starve tumors to death.
Cancer cells must find nutrients to grow. Now, researchers at Oxford University in the UK have discovered the method used by cells to locate those food supplies.
They identified a protein called PAT4 as the main tool cancer cells use to find nutrients in blood, and their research suggests it may be possible to starve tumors by targeting it.
“We found that aggressive cancer cells manufacture more PAT4, which enables them to make better use of available nutrients than the cells around them – including healthy tissue,” said Dr. Deborah Goberdhan, who led the research.
Goberdhan’s team created an antibody that let them see levels of PAT4 in human tissues. They found that cancers with low PAT4 levels grew more slowly while patients that showed higher levels had more trouble fighting tumors and a higher chance of remission.
They also discovered that if doctors can reduce the PAT4 levels, it will slow tumor growth.
Now that they’ve identified a mechanism that allows tumors to grow, the researchers believe they can find a way to use it as part of a combination treatment that will lead to a higher survival rate for patients. They believe it can be incorporated into other, traditional cancer treatments to fight the disease more effectively.
The research, published today in the science journal Oncogene, was funded by Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
(Photo: Yale Rosen, CC)
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