A histology specimen depicting stained glioblastoma cells. Wikimedia Commons
Cancer’s sweet tooth
Fundamentally, cancer is a disease (or diseases) of cells grown amok, mutating and spreading with abandon until they impinge, impair and destroy ordinary functions within their host.
All cells, healthy and otherwise, require glucose to survive and thrive. In a new paper published in Cell Metabolism, Paul Mischel, MD, professor of pathology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a member of Ludwig Cancer Research, based at UC San Diego, and colleagues describe how an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma extracts the glucose it requires, but twists the mechanism sufficiently to resist therapies intended to starve it to death.
“Cancer and other fast-growing cells extract energy from glucose using a process that ordinarily kicks in only when oxygen is in short supply,” said Mischel. “This allows them to thread the needle: They get the energy they need from glucose, but also retain the carbon-based building blocks for molecules like lipids, proteins and DNA, which dividing cells need in large quantities.”
The findings have major implications for cancer treatment, suggesting that future therapies will need to attack cancer cells in multiple, specific ways. You can read the full Ludwig release here.