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Sugar metabolism is surprisingly standard in most cancers

Graphical summary. Credit: Molecular Cell (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2022.07.007

For over a century, most cancers cell metabolism has been seen as one thing of a paradox. New work from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis exhibits that it may not be such an anomaly in any case. The examine is revealed Aug. 15 in Molecular Cell.

Glucose, a standard sugar in meals, is without doubt one of the most vital vitamins within the physique. Cancer cells are likely to eat it at an astounding tempo. At first look, that appears to make good sense as a result of most cancers cells have numerous synthesis to do. After all, as tumors develop quickly, every cell has to copy its complete contents.

But here is the catch. Cancer cells do not use the glucose very effectively. Instead of sucking all the vitality they’ll out of glucose, they launch most of it as a waste material.

“To extract the maximum amount of energy from glucose, cells must transport its transformation products into mitochondria,” stated Gary Patti, the Michael and Tana Powell Professor of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences and of genetics and of drugs on the School of Medicine. Patti, a member of Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine, is senior writer of the brand new examine

“There are certain biochemical rules that metabolism is supposed to follow. It’s been interesting to think about why tumors might be allowed to break them,” Patti stated. “However, the findings we report here demonstrate that cancer cells do follow conventional principles.”


Mitochondria are tiny compartments inside cells, sometimes called the cell’s energy vegetation or powerhouses. What goes out and in of them is tightly managed.

As a little bit of backstory, a well-known biochemist named Otto Warburg first found the wasteful nature of tumors within the Twenties. To clarify why extra vitality is not harvested from glucose, he postulated that mitochondria are broken in most cancers cells.

“We now know that this is not true. Mitochondria are functional and, in fact, active in most cancers,” Patti stated. But that leaves a persistent and vexing query unanswered: Why do most cancers cells metabolize so little of the glucose they eat in mitochondria?

“I think what has been confounding is that there has been this notion that cancer cells prefer not to oxidize glucose in their mitochondria,” Patti stated. “Perhaps as a legacy of Warburg’s original thinking or maybe because it happens so extensively, the assumption has often been that cancer cells want to use glucose wastefully.”

All kinds of explanations have been supplied as to why most cancers cells may wish to be wasteful with their glucose. However, Patti and his staff contend that these rationalizations could also be pointless. In the tip, most cancers metabolism is probably not as uncommon as scientists thought.

Cancer cells actually do wish to metabolize glucose of their mitochondria, and so they accomplish that. Until they cannot.

“When we restrict the amount of glucose taken up by cancer cells, almost all of it makes its way into mitochondria,” Patti stated. “But as glucose consumption is increased, the speed of moving glucose-derived molecules into mitochondria can’t keep up.”

In different phrases, most cancers cells solely waste glucose away as a result of transport into mitochondria is simply too sluggish.

Imagine a bath faucet that’s spitting out water quicker than the drain can take away it. Eventually, the water overflows onto the ground.

“This is not a radically new metabolic paradigm. Most cells do prefer to oxidize glucose in mitochondria rather than excrete it as waste,” Patti stated. “Our data suggest that cancer cells are not an exception. They appear to follow the same biochemical patterns as other cells.”


The Patti staff’s discovery was made potential by a robust expertise referred to as metabolomics.

“During the previous decade, advances within the area of metabolomics and mass spectrometry have been extraordinary,” Patti famous. “We have now reached a point where measuring molecules in single cells is even possible.”

In this examine, the researchers mixed metabolomics with steady isotope tracers. This allowed them to tag totally different elements of glucose in order that they may observe it within cells, watching the velocity at which issues entered mitochondria or had been excreted from cells. That is how the scientists found that the conventional pathways for transporting gas had been getting outpaced, or saturated, in most cancers cells.

The charge at which tumors eat glucose has been exploited by medical doctors within the clinic for many years as a approach to diagnose most cancers and determine its stage. It additionally has led some to consider that limiting glucose uptake with medicine or by consuming a sugar-free weight loss program may “starve” the most cancers cells to dying.

This examine’s findings increase questions on such a method.

“We may need to rethink how best to target glucose metabolism in cancer,” Patti stated. “If cancer cells take up more glucose than they need, and using it wastefully is not a driver of disease, then glucose metabolism may not be as attractive of a therapeutic target as we had hoped.”

Cancer has ripple effect on distant tissues

More data:
Gary J. Patti, Saturation of the mitochondrial NADH shuttles drives cardio glycolysis in proliferating cells, Molecular Cell (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2022.07.007. www.cell.com/molecular-cell/fu … 1097-2765(22)00703-1

Sugar metabolism is surprisingly standard in most cancers (2022, August 15)
retrieved 15 August 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-sugar-metabolism-surprisingly-conventional-cancer.html

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