• January 12, 2011
  • Cancer Cells Feed on Sugar-Free Diet

PHILADELPHIA - Cancer cells have been long known to have a "sweet tooth," using vast amounts of glucose for energy and for building blocks for cell replication.

A study by a team led by Chi Van Dang, MD, now at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, with former Johns Hopkins' colleagues and investigators Teresa Fan, Andrew Lane and Richard Higashi at the University of Louisville, KY, shows that lymph gland cancer cells (B cells) can use the amino acid glutamine in the absence of glucose for cell replication and survival, particularly under low-oxygen conditions, which are common in tumors.

In the most recent issue of Cell Metabolism, the team reports findings that are critical for developing innovative cancer therapies because they offer proof-of-concept evidence that curbing the growth of B-cell cancers can be accomplished by inhibiting a glutamine enzyme called glutaminase.

Although little is known about glutamine's role in the growth of B-cell cancer, the amino acid circulates in the blood at the highest level among the 20 amino acids that do so. The study also found that when oxygen is scarce, there is enhanced conversion of glutamine to glutathione, an important agent for controlling the accumulation of oxygen-containing, chemically reactive molecules that cause damage to normal cells.

"A broader and deeper understanding of cancer cell metabolism and cancer cells' ability to reprogram biochemical pathways under metabolic stress can be a rich ground for therapeutic approaches targeting tumor metabolism," says Dang.

 

###

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.

Print, Share, or Save
 
Media Contact

Karen Kreeger
215-349-5658

 
Other Contacts
 
 
Latest News
All News Releases


About Penn Medicine   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

Penn Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 800-789-PENN © 2013, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania