The Last Supper: Reclaiming Energy Stores and Starving Out Tumors

Research Highlight by: Jacqueline Katz

­­­­Cancer is the perfect leech. In a study performed by the University of Colorado Cancer Center and published in Cancer Cell earlier this week, researchers uncovered how leukemia cells redirect stored energy designated for normal cells to feed tumor growth.

Healthy cells require insulin to use glucose, which, in turn, is required to fuel these cells. And, leukemia cells work both to hinder insulin production and decrease insulin sensitivity among normal cells, thereby docking normal cells’ consumption of glucose and increasing available energy reserves. Consequently, healthy cells starve and cancer cells feast.

With this new development, scientists are speculating on the role this energy thievery might have on cachexia – a condition commonly associated with cancer in which patients experience severe weight loss, muscular atrophy, and fatigue. Researchers and clinicians posit that the exhaustion of energy stores could be linked to much more than the malnourishment of just the cellular unit, but of the patient as a whole.

Dr. Craig Jordan, a lead investigator on the study, is also making treatment advances, using Ser-Tri therapy to “recalibrate the glucose system.” Dr. Jordan found that administering tributyrin and supplementary serotonin restored insulin levels themselves and insulin sensitivity in normal cells. This, by no means, is a panacea for cancer, but it does indicate great strides in the field of medicine, and even foreshadows a cure.

 

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. "Cancer hijacks the microbiome to glut itself on glucose." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 September 2018. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180928131255.htm>.