In a recent study, biomedical engineers at Duke University found that metastatic cancer cells can reprogram their metabolism to thrive in new organs.
Specifically, the study shows that cells from colorectal cancer could change their dietary habits to capitalize on the fructose often found in the liver.
It is known that cancer becomes much more deadly once it spreads to different parts of the body.
Genetically speaking, colon cancer is colon cancer no matter where it goes.
But that doesn’t mean that it can’t respond to a new environment. Such a response might not be genetic, but metabolic in nature.
In the study, the researchers found that certain metabolic genes became more active in liver metastases than they were in the original primary tumor or lung metastases.
One group of metabolic genes stood out in particular, those involved in the metabolism of fructose.
The researchers found that when cancer cells get to the liver, they’re like a kid in a candy store. They use this ample new energy supply to create building blocks for growing more cancer cells.
To feed on fructose, cancer cells need to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down fructose, called ALDOB, a trick they can quickly learn from the liver itself.
Once the cancer cells figure out how to rewire themselves to gorge on the fructose, they proliferate out of control and become unstoppable.
The team believes the finding offers both general and specific insights into new ways of fighting metastatic cancer.
Besides providing an insight into how cancers thrive after metastasizing, this discovery can lead to new therapies specifically targeting metastatic cells.
One way to avoid fructose is eating natural, non-processed foods.
In addition, providing drugs that block fructose metabolism could potentially halt the growth of cancer that has spread to the liver from other organs.
And because new drugs targeting fructose metabolism have recently been developed by pharmaceutical companies to treat metabolic diseases, such crossover treatments may not be far away.
The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
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Source: Cell Metabolism.