Health

Cancer & sugar: Spanish scientists prove the link

Cancer & sugar: Spanish scientists prove the link

After many years of speculation and investigation, research scientists at the Bellvitge-IDIBELL Hospital and the University of Barcelona (UB) have finally demonstrated the involvement of glucose in the growth of tumour cells and have described how the availability of nutrients and oncogenic signal pathways link molecularly.

It is, according to the researchers, an “important step forward” in understanding the molecular mechanism that reprograms the cell in the formation of tumours.

The work, published by the journal ‘Science’, has deciphered the path through which glucose enhances the growth of cells, which must grow and reach a critical size in order to divide.

According to the researchers, promoting biosynthetic processes, such as the production of proteins and lipids, copying the genetic material and suppressing degradation pathways of biomolecules, the cells get ready to proliferate. These processes are regulated by a key protein: the so-called mTOR, which, according to the scientists, plays a crucial role in metabolic reprogramming.

The research team, led by Albert Tauler, a member of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Health Sciences of the UB, has demonstrated how this cell growth occurs and isolated the genetic signals of the E2F1 oncogene, which promotes uncontrolled division of the tumour cell.

Specifically, the work describes the activating interaction of two glycolytic enzymes (PFKFB3 and PFK1) with the mTOR complex, which converge on the surface of cellular organelles called lysosomes. Lysosomes are membrane-coated organelles, which contain a large number of enzymes capable of breaking down macromolecules.

The research concludes that PFKFB3 and PFK1 are the link between glucose availability and mTOR activation, and show the importance of lysosomes as essential signaling platforms to regulate metabolic reprogramming, inherent in tumour formation and growth.

According to the researchers, the importance of this study lies in the description of a new way of regulating this protein that will pave the way for different approaches to cancer treatment. 

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