Monday, September 21, 2015

Pancreatic cancer stem cells could be 'suffocated' by diabetes drug

CANCER DIGEST – Sept. 21, 2015 – A new study shows that pancreatic cancer stem cells (PancSCs) are virtually addicted to oxygen–based metabolism, and could be “suffocated” with a drug already used to treat diabetes. 

Cancer cells commonly rely on glycolysis, a type of metabolism that does not use molecular oxygen to generate energy. PancSCs can make use of an even more efficient form of metabolism, called oxidative phosphorylation or OXPHOS, which occurs in a part of the cell called mitochondria. Metformin blocks PancSCs from using OXPHOS triggering cell death, or apoptosis. 

The researchers think that the new discovery could be used to develop treatments that stop the stem cells using oxygen and prevent cancer returning after conventional treatment. A clinical trial is planned for later next year. The new finding appears online Sept. 10 in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Led by Dr. Patricia Sancho the researchers at Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute and the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) in Madrid have shown that PancSCs could be an important but as yet overlooked piece of puzzle of how pancreatic cancer becomes resistant to chemotherapy. 

While they make up only a small proportion of the tumor, PancSCs have the potential to make new tumors, even if all the other cells are killed, and are prone to spreading around the body (metastasis).

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