Researchers from St. Louis University have developed a drug to target all types of cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells untouched.
Malignant cancer cells usually consume glucose by a different pathway than normal cells, giving them the energy to grow rapidly. This phenomenon is called the “Warburg effect.” This phenomenon makes sure that cancer cells get enough energy for their unrestricted growth.
Dr. Thomas Burris and his fellow researchers report that they have targeted this energy source with a drug and report that the Warburg effect is the metabolic foundation of cancer cell growth. Additionally, the team reports that Warburg effect also ensures tumor progression, metastasis, and resistance to treatment.
Dr. Burris tells to University of St. Louis News homepage, “Cancer cells look for metabolic pathways to find the parts to grow and divide. If they don’t have the parts, they just die,” said Burris. “The Warburg effect ramps up energy use in the form of glucose to make chemicals required for rapid growth and cancer cells also ramp up another process, lipogenesis, that lets them make their own fats that they need to rapidly grow.” Lipogenesis is the process of making fatty acids in cells and along with the Warburg effect, is key to cancer progression.
The drug that the team developed was initially meant for high cholesterol. SR9243, however, was found to:
- Significantly reduce fat synthesis in cancer cells
- Impact the Warburg effect because of loss of fat, thus cutting off the energy supply to cancer cells
- Not allow cancer cells to multiply as a result
- Not have any toxic effects on normal, healthy cells
- Be effective against cancer cells in culture
- Inhibit the growth of several types of cancer cells in animal models like lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer cells
- Be effective against pancreatic and ovarian cancer cells to a lesser extent
- Increase the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs when used in combination
According to Dr. Burris, “It works in a wide range of cancers both in culture and in human tumors developing in animal models. Some are more sensitive to it than others. In several of these pathways, cells had been reprogramed by cancer to support cancer cell growth. This returns the metabolism to that of more normal cells.”
If found effective in clinical trials, SR9243 could potentially be an effective drug that could arrest the growth of many types of cancer. It would be interesting to see if fasting, which negatively impacts Warburg effect, could also play a role in increasing the efficacy of SR9243.
(n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2015, from http://www.slu.edu/x106658.xml
Flaveny, C., Griffett, K., El-Gendy, B., Kazantzis, M., Sengupta, M., Amelio, A., . . . Burris, T. (n.d.). Broad Anti-tumor Activity of a Small Molecule that Selectively Targets the Warburg Effect and Lipogenesis. Cancer Cell. doi:10.1016/j.ccell.2015.05.007
Sarkar, M. (n.d.). Can Fasting Make Less Toxic Cancer Drugs More Potent? Retrieved July 2, 2015.