Categorized | MRV Research, Of Interest

Even melanoma has a sweet tooth, research by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre finds

Source: Hearld Sun, April 2014

LIKE so many of us, it appears that melanoma is also addicted to sugar.

Research by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre has found that melanoma cells depend on glucose to grow and spread through the body.

The research team has discovered that most cancer cells die during treatment because their glucose supply is cut off and they are starved to death.

But the cancer can come back because some sneaky cells manage to survive the sugar drought by finding other sources of fuel or going into survival mode.

Centre for Cancer Imaging director Professor Rod Hicks said researchers knew tumours had an appetite for glucose because they found that when melanoma patients were scanned they had a high uptake of the radioactive glucose, which is used to make tumours glow.

But this study uncovered just how vital glucose is for the melanoma cell’s survival.

They found that when patients with BRAF-positive melanoma, which is 40 per cent of all cases of this cancer, were given a drug to kill their cancer they found the melanoma cells stopped eating up glucose.

“Initially we thought this was a phenomenon related to the death of the cells; that the drugs were killing the cells and because there were less of them they were taking up less glucose,” Prof Hicks said.

But they now know that the drug is killing the cells by blocking the cell’s ability to access glucose.

“These cells become addicted to sugar they like eating lots of it because it allows them to get fat and big enough to divide and grow,” Prof Hicks said.

“If you cut off that glucose source then the cells die or go into survival mode by either eating something else or finding a way to access glucose again.”

The next step is to find a way to eradicate the cancer cells that manage to survive despite having their fuel source cut off.

“This has great promise in changing the way we treat melanoma and could potentially change outcomes for patients,” Prof Hicks said.

This year alone 12,500 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma.

The research, which was led by PhD student Tiffany Parmenter, was funded by the Cancer Council Victoria, and it was published in the journal Cancer Discovery.

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