Major shift in understanding of cancer metabolism

By Allison Kannam

            Researchers at the Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have made a recent discovery that is challenging a long-held observation about cancer metabolism called the Warburg effect. One of the three main components of the Warburg effect is that lactate serves as a waste product of cancerous tumors. However, a team of CRI researchers recently published a study that indicates that lactate is a fuel source for lung cancer cells that may support growth, proliferation, and even metastases, in addition to its role as a waste product. In addition, the study shows preliminary findings that there may be a connection between lactose utilization and tumors’ clinical aggressiveness, including how quickly they metastasize and recur. These conclusions were made possible in part because researchers were able to analyze the tumors’ metabolism during surgeries to remove them, rather than in the laboratory.

The research was led by Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, who is a professor at CRI, Director of CRI's Genetic and Metabolic Disease Program, and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Genetics and Metabolism at UT Southwestern. He expressed great surprise at these findings, as the Warburg effect is the oldest observation in cancer metabolism and therefore has significantly shaped research in the field. The research has important implications for studying new therapeutic targets and imaging techniques for lung cancer in the future.


Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center. (2017, October 5). Study challenges long-standing concept in cancer metabolism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 13, 2017 from