The Gluttony of Cancer Cells

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The authors observed that an artificial switch in cancer cells from an epithelial to a mesenchymal phenotype induced the expression of GLUT3, a protein that promotes cellular glucose uptake.

Cancer cells are gluttons. We have long known that they monopolize large amounts of sugar. More recently, it became clear that some tumor cells are also characterized by a series of features such as mobility or unlikeliness to join in an ordered set. Researchers are calling this behavior "mesenchymal," and they suspect it promotes metastasis.


Cancer & Metabolism

At EPFL, Etienne Meylan's research team was able to demonstrate that the two observations — appetite for sugar and mesenchymal behavior – result from the same mechanism, at least in "non-small cell lung cancer." They also showed that the intensity of the phenomenon significantly influenced the chances of patient survival. Published in , this discovery opens up new potential targets for future therapies.

A useful mechanism, but put to work by cancer

Mesenchymal behavior is not in itself an anomaly. During embryonic development, some cells acquire these characteristics. In adults, a few cells retain this disposition.

"Mesenchymal behavior is a quite useful feature, but is abnormally reactivated in non-small cell lung cancer, which we studied," says Etienne Meylan.

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Source: MedicalXpress