Compared to normal cells, cancer cells have a prodigious appetite for glucose. A research team has investigated the reverse aspect: how the metabolism of glucose affects the biochemical signals present in cancer cells. In research published June 26 in the journal Molecular Systems Biology, they demonstrated that glucose starvation -- that is, depriving cancer cells of glucose -- activates a metabolic and signaling amplification loop that leads to cancer cell death as a result of the toxic accumulation of reactive oxygen species. Because cancer cells live on the edge of what is metabolically feasible, this amplifying cycle of oxidative stress ultimately overwhelms and kills the cancer cell. These findings illustrate the delicate balance that exists between metabolism and signaling in the maintenance of cancer cell homeostasis. In addition, the authors showed the possibility of exploiting this positive feedback loop for therapeutic intervention. Combining short-term glucose deprivation with an inhibitor of tyrosine phosphatases, they demonstrated synergistic cell death in a cancer cell line.
Bonnie: How many times do we have to say it? Sugar feeds cancer cells.