To starve pancreatic tumors, researchers seek to block 'self-eating,' other fuel sources

April 13, 2018 by Laura Oleniacz, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

To get the extra energy they need to fuel their uncontrolled growth, cancer cells break down some of their own parts for fuel - a process known as autophagy, or "self-eating." Researchers from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center found a possible therapeutic strategy to block self-eating in one of the deadliest cancers, as well as to cut off the tumor's other energy sources.

The researchers are reporting preclinical findings for a potential two-treatment strategy to block multiple mechanisms of cell metabolism in pancreatic cancer at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Chicago. The findings will be presented from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday.

"We know that have a greater need for energy than normal ," said UNC Lineberger's Channing Der, PhD, Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Pharmacology.

"They get their energy by changing normal metabolic processes to allow them to generate more energy, and one of these processes is self-eating. Basically what a cancer cell does is it does this more efficiently than a normal cell."

In other studies, pancreatic cancer cells have been known to rely more heavily on autophagy, but UNC Lineberger scientists reported evidence that a type of treatment—an ERK inhibitor—actually increased their reliance on this. The researchers believe the compound prevents the cell from relying on other energy sources, driving it toward autophagy.

"The cancer cell has many ways to achieve what it wants in terms of getting more energy," Der said. "We find that if you try to stop one, a cancer cell has the ability to compensate. I think the analogy many of us use is the 'whack-a-mole' concept where you knock one thing down, and something else pops up. We need more than one hammer basically."

To block multiple energy sources at once, the researchers used an ERK inhibitor to cut off these other sources, alongside with an investigational compound used to block , in the hopes of starving the cells completely. They reported at AACR that this co-treatment showed a synergistic effect.

"What if we could cripple more than one for the cell at once?" Der said.

Explore further: Phase I clinical trial shows some promise for investigational drug for melanoma

Related Stories

Phase I clinical trial shows some promise for investigational drug for melanoma

February 22, 2018
An investigational compound designed to block a hyperactive cell growth signal in advanced melanoma and other cancers has shown some promise in an early-stage clinical trial, researchers at the University of North Carolina ...

Inhibiting metabolism found to be effective in treating aggressive form of lung cancer

April 12, 2018
Researchers from UCLA and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center have found that two targeted therapies could be more effective if used in combination to treat squamous cell carcinomas of the lung. The two drugs, MLN128 and CB-839, ...

Turning off autophagy helps chemotherapy stress cancer cells to death

March 12, 2018
A process called autophagy (from the Greek term for "self-eating") helps cells survive stress - very basically, autophagy acts as a kind of cellular recycling system in which unwanted or old parts of the cell are degraded ...

Starving cancer cells of sugar—does it work?

January 26, 2018
Previous research have shown that rapidly dividing cancer cells require higher levels of sugar than healthy cells. This dependency on sugar distinguishes cancer cells from normal cells and is often used as a treatment option ...

New way to target the growth of breast cancer cells

January 18, 2018
An international team of researchers led from Karolinska Institutet and Science for Life Laboratory in Sweden have found a new way of halting the growth of breast cancer cells. In their study, which is published in Nature ...

Researchers continue to seek strategy for starving brain tumors

June 2, 2017
In an effort to starve brain cancer cells and put the brakes on tumor development, University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers blocked the main pathway that brain tumor cells use to convert ...

Recommended for you

Potential seen for tailoring treatment for acute myeloid leukemia

December 8, 2018
Advances in rapid screening of leukemia cells for drug susceptibility and resistance are bringing scientists closer to patient-tailored treatment for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Study may offer doctors a more effective way to treat neuroblastoma

December 7, 2018
A very large team of researchers, mostly from multiple institutions across Germany, has found what might be a better way to treat patients with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. In their paper published in the journal Science, ...

Major breakthrough in quest for cancer vaccine

December 6, 2018
The idea of a cancer vaccine is something researchers have been working on for over 50 years, but until recently they were never able to prove exactly how such a vaccine would work.

'Chemo brain' caused by malfunction in three types of brain cells, study finds

December 6, 2018
More than half of cancer survivors suffer from cognitive impairment from chemotherapy that lingers for months or years after the cancer is gone. In a new study explaining the cellular mechanisms behind this condition, scientists ...

Scientists develop new technology for profiling unique genetic makeup of myeloma tumor cells

December 6, 2018
Cancer arises when cells lose control. Deciphering the "blueprint" of cancer cells—outlining how cancer cells hijack specific pathways for uncontrolled proliferation—will lead to more efficient ways to fight it. Joint ...

Putting the brakes on tumor stealth

December 6, 2018
New research undertaken at Monash University has shed new light on how some cancers are able to escape our immune system.

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.