Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson have discovered an enzyme that helps brain tumours grow in nutrient-starved environments. This discovery will help researchers in investigating possible new treatments.
The enzyme, called acetyl-CoA synthase 2 (ACSS2), works by enhancing the tumour’s ability to use acetate as food instead of glucose.
ACSS2 can also encourage autophagy – programmed cell death. Lysosomes will then recycle these dead cells into key nutrients for the cancer cell.
The importance of this discovery rests in the fact that all cancer tumours need to ‘feed’ in order to multiply and create tumours.
Much like healthy cells, they are unable to thrive in oxygen and nutrient-poor environments. However, many tumours are found to grow in such environments hence the importance of discovering this enzyme that allows them to do so.
The research published in Molecular Cell, illustrate how tumours manage to feed and grow despite their relentless surroundings.
Zhimin Lu, Ph.D., professor of neuro-oncology and lead researcher of the study said, “Overcoming metabolic stress is a critical step in solid tumour growth. Acetyl coenzyme A (CoA), generated via glucose and acetate uptake, is a key carbon source for important cellular processes such as histone acetylation and gene expression.”
The immune system and current therapies are unable to stop this nutrient pathway from occurring.
If this pathway could be cut off, it would be instrumental in preventing tumour growth and encouraging cancer cell death in brain tumours.