Latest research shows how cancer cells react to chemotherapy

July 14, 2011, CORDIS
Latest research shows how cancer cells react to chemotherapy

EU-funded researchers have made good progress in understanding how cancer cells can sometimes resist the effects of chemotherapy. This new knowledge will move forward the development of increasingly effective cancer treatments and could go some way to reducing relapse, good news for cancer patients and scientists alike.

As part of the APO-SYS ('Apoptosis systems biology applied to cancer and AIDS') project, which received a funding boost of EUR 11 million under the 'Health' Theme of the (FP7), the team of researchers from the Dublin-based Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) carried out a comprehensive study of .

Writing in the journal Molecular , the team explain how their findings show that chemotherapy resistance occurs due to metabolism differences between cancer cells and normal .

In chemotherapy, anti-cancer drugs are used to kill cancer cells. They do this by stimulating a process of called apoptosis, as well as hindering the function of the mitochondria. The mitochondria is responsible for regulating cell energy production and maintaining a balance of water and ions; therefore, if the mitochondria is paralysed, the whole cell cannot function.

However, in addition to producing energy in the mitochondria, cancer cells can also produce energy by using glucose in a process known as glycolysis.

Although previous studies have shown that the process of glycolysis can effectively bring cancer cells being targeted by chemotherapy 'back to life', the Irish team has now found that also helps to restore mitochondrial function, meaning that cancer cells may continue to function following the treatment.

This study, which was based on computational modelling and live cell microscopy, brings scientists closer to understanding why and how some cancer cells survive both apoptosis and mitochondria impairment.

Dr. Heinrich Huber, lead researcher on the study from the RCSI, says: 'Our findings show that when cancer cells are exposed to elevated glucose levels, mitochondrial function can be restored and osmotic homeostasis can be maintained, which contributes to resistance to chemotherapy. Therefore, we have found that in order for cancer treatments to be effective, they must target the cancer cell's ability to produce energy by using glucose within its fluids as well as destroying the mitochondria. It is also important that glucose levels in patients are monitored because this can be a factor in resistance to treatment.'

According to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is one of the main causes of death worldwide and was responsible for 7.6 million deaths (approximately 13 % of all deaths) in 2008. The WHO also estimates that this figure will rise to over 11 million by 2030.

As understanding the mechanistic details of how cancer cells are able to resist chemotherapy can provide strategies to increase treatment efficiency and reduce clinical relapse, the team hope their research will lead to further discoveries in and go some way towards reducing the worldwide impact of this killer condition.

The APO-SYS project, which runs until 2012, brings together a pan-European consortium of experimental biologists, biomathematicians, biostatisticians, computer scientists and clinical scientists, all working on cell death pathways in health and disease, with a particular focus on cancer and AIDS.

Explore further: Research identifies how cancer cells cheat death

More information: Huber, H. J., et al. (2011) Glucose metabolism determines resistance of cancer cells to bioenergetic crisis after cytochrome-c release. Molecular Systems Biology. DOI: 10.1038/msb.2011.2

Related Stories

Research identifies how cancer cells cheat death

June 8, 2011
Research led by David Litchfield of The University of Western Ontario has identified how biochemical pathways can be "rewired" in cancer cells to allow these cells to ignore signals that should normally trigger their death. ...

Recommended for you

Function of neutrophils during tumor progression unraveled

October 15, 2018
Researchers at The Wistar Institute have characterized the function of neutrophils, a type of white blood cells, during early stages of tumor progression, showing that they migrate from the bone marrow to distant sites and ...

Delving where few others have gone, leukemia researchers open new path

October 15, 2018
A Wilmot Cancer Institute study uncovers how a single gene could be at fault in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the deadliest cancers. The breakthrough gives researchers renewed hope that a gene-targeted therapy could ...

3-D mammography detected 34% more breast cancers in screening

October 15, 2018
In traditional mammography screening, all breast tissue is captured in a single image. Breast tomosynthesis, on the other hand, is three-dimensional and works according to the same principle as what is known as tomography. ...

More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer

October 15, 2018
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process—changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding—uses a molecular process believed ...

Cancer stem cells use 'normal' genes in abnormal ways

October 12, 2018
CDK1 is a "normal" protein—its presence drives cells through the cycle of replication. And MHC Class I molecules are "normal" as well—they present bits of proteins on the surfaces of cells for examination by the immune ...

Obesity linked to increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer

October 12, 2018
Women who are overweight or obese have up to twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer before age 50 as women who have what is considered a normal body mass index (BMI), according to new research led by Washington University ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.