Sunday, July 31, 2016

Blocking glutamine may starve colorectal cancer cells

A molecular model of L-glutamine. Image courtesy Jynto
via Wikimedia Commons
CANCER DIGEST – July 31, 2016 – A new clinical trial set to get under way later this summer will try to determine if denying certain types of colorectal cancer cells a specific nutrient will starve them to death.

The Case Western Reserve University trial is based on laboratory and mouse studies showing that colorectal cancer cells with a genetic mutation called PIK3CA died when deprived of the nutrient glutamine, which is an amino acid used by cells to make proteins. This mutation is located in a gene critical for cell division and movement, and is found in approximately one third of all colorectal cancers. Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in human blood and is mostly made in muscle tissue.

In the mouse study published in Nature Communications researchers showed in laboratory studies that certain colorectal cancer cells reprogram their metabolism using glutamine in order to grow. Moving to the mouse model the team then investigated the effects of blocking glutamine availability in mice with colorectal cancer tumors containing the PIK3CA mutation.

Exposing the mice to a compound that blocks glutamine metabolism consistently suppressed tumor growth. They did not observe the same effect on tumors without the mutation.

The study provides the basis for a colon cancer treatment clinical trial that will be started later this summer at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center. The phase I/II study will test the effects of a glutamine metabolism blocker in patients with advanced colorectal tumors.

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