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Energy network within cells may be new target for cancer therapy
Date:2/21/2012

Mitochondria, tiny structures within each cell that regulate metabolism and energy use, may be a promising new target for cancer therapy, according to a new study. Manipulation of two biochemical signals that regulate the numbers of mitochondria in cells could shrink human lung cancers transplanted into mice, a team of Chicago researchers report in the journal FASEB.

Within each cell, mitochondria are constantly splitting in two, a process called fission, and merging back into one, called fusion. Before a cell can divide, the mitochondria must increase their numbers through fission and separate into two piles, one for each cell.

By reversing an imbalance of the signals that regulate fusion and fission in rapidly dividing cancer cells, researchers were able to dramatically reduce cell division, thus preventing the rapid cell proliferation that is a hallmark of cancer growth. Increasing production of the signal that promotes mitochondrial fusion caused tumors to shrink to one-third of their original size. Treatment with a molecule that inhibits fission reduced tumor size by more than half.

"We found that human lung cancer cell lines have an imbalance of signals that tilts them towards mitochondrial fission," said Stephen L. Archer, MD, the Harold Hines Jr. Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine and senior author of the study. "By boosting the fusion signal or blocking the fission signal we were able to tip the balance the other way, reducing cancer cell growth and increasing cell death. We believe this provides a promising new approach to cancer treatment."

"This could be a potential new Achilles' heel for cancer cells," said the study's lead author, Jalees Rehman, MD, an associate professor of medicine and pharmacology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Many anticancer drugs target cell division. Our work shifts the focus to a distinct but necessary step: mitochondrial division. The cell d
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Contact: John Easton
john.easton@uchospitals.edu
773-795-5225
University of Chicago Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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