New York Times - Fuel lines of tumors are a new target

News

Published: 29Nov2010

For the last decade cancer drug developers have tried to jam the accelerators that cause tumors to grow. Now they want to block the fuel line.

Cancer cells, because of their rapid growth, have a voracious appetite for glucose, the main nutrient used to generate energy. And tumors often use glucose differently from healthy cells, an observation first made by a German biochemist in the 1920s.

That observation is already used to detect tumors in the body using PET scans. A radioactive form of glucose is injected into the bloodstream and accumulates in tumors, lighting up the scans.

Now, efforts are turning from diagnosis to treating the disease by disrupting the special metabolism of cancer cells to deprive them of energy…

“When a patient with cancer is calorically restricted, the amount of glucose in the blood until they are almost dead is close to normal,” said Dr. Michael Pollak, professor of medicine and oncology at McGill University in Montreal. Also, Dr. Pollak said, tumors are adept at extracting glucose from the blood. So even if glucose is scarce, he said, “the last surviving cell in the body would be the tumor cell.”