Researchers from the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that some cancer cells may depend on one particular type of nutrient to ensure their survival in the body. They also showed how these cancer cells become addicted to specific nutrients such as glucose. Through understanding the exact mechanism scientists will be able to find the appropriate therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer patients.
These treatment approaches will specifically helpful for the cancer patients who have high levels of the transporter, an amino acid transporter known as solute carrier family 7 member 11 (SLC7A11). Usually, the level of SLC7A11 is high in cancers such as renal cell carcinoma, lung cancer and common type of renal cancers.
Boyi Gan from the Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology led this study and investigated cancer and metabolic reprogramming. The findings of the study are published in Nature Cell Biology.
Boyi Gan said that through the contribution of metabolic reprogramming, cancer cells are highly addicted to one particular nutrient for their survival in the body. If the supply of these specific nutrients is limited in the body then it will block the uptake of that nutrient and it stops the metabolism of cancer cells.
So it will become easy to selectively kill the cancer cells that are addicted to only one specific nutrient without damaging the healthy cells of the body. By understanding the proper mechanism of nutrient dependency of cancer cells, researchers will be able to target the metabolic vulnerabilities in treatment strategies for cancer.
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Gan explained the chemistry that lies behind the addiction to cancer cells. He stated the example of acute lymphoblastic leukemia which is treated through asparaginase enzyme. In this type of cancer body, cancerous cells are not able to produce the amino acid called asparagine.
This amino acid is important for survival so it must be obtained from the extracellular sources of sucrose. Asparagine treatment limits the supply of asparagine amino acid so cancer cells can not gain access to the amino acid to ensure their survival. This leads to the death of cancer cells in the body.
Gan further explained that in cancer cells the level of SLC7A11 is high and it has a very prominent role in reducing the level of glutathione which inhibits the killing of cancer cells. But this research showed that if cancer cells actively uptake the cystine this will prove risky for them because cystine is a less soluble type of amino acid and if cells take it in the high amount it accumulates in the cell and become toxic for the cell.
To reduce this toxicity cancer cells immediately convert the cystine into cysteine. As a result, cancer cells that have high demands for cystine and a great level of SLC7A11 become addicted to glucose to ensure their survival in the body.
Cancer cells use another type of amino acids named cystine which is transported to many cancer cells through proving risky for them because cystine is a less soluble type of amino acid and if cells take it in the high amount it accumulates in the cell and become toxic for the cell.
To reduce this toxicity cancer cells immediately convert the cancer cells also use another amino acid named cystine. it is used for defense against antioxidantsstine into cysteine. As a result, cancer cells that have high demands for cystine and a great level of SLC7A11 become addicted to glucose to ensure their survival in the body.
Through these findings, scientists were able to understand the process that metabolic vulnerability linked with overexpression of SLC7A11 in the cancer cells insights some specific treatment strategies. The team of researchers showed that glucose transporter inhibitor therapies limit the supply of glucose in the cells which causes the accumulation of cystine in the cell to a toxic level.
So through this therapy, the selective cells with a high level of SLC7A11 are killed and also it reduces the growth of tumors. So, the study suggests that through the use of Glut inhibitors, the tumors with a high level of amino acid transporters are treated easily.