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Moffitt Cancer Center researchers find acidic pH microenvironments in tumors aid tumor cell survival
Date:9/5/2012

Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues at the University of South Florida and Wayne State University have discovered that tumor cell survival relies on adaptation to acidic conditions in the tumor microenvironment. Their research investigating the effects of acidity on breast and pancreatic cancer cell lines revealed the importance of autophagy in acidic microenvironments and suggests that a successful treatment strategy might be based on this autophagic dependence.

The study appears as the cover story for the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer Research, a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Cancer progression is a multistep process strongly influenced by the physical properties of the tumor microenvironment," said Robert J. Gillies, Ph.D., corresponding author of the study and chair of Moffitt's Department of Cancer Imaging and Metabolism. "Both low oxygen and high acidity can be cytotoxic. Our research suggests that adaptation to these stressful conditions involves autophagy allowing cancer cells to survive, proliferate and eventually metastasize to secondary sites."

According to the authors, not much is known about cell survival mechanisms under acidic conditions, but it has been demonstrated that acidosis can alter gene expression leading to cell types that are adapted for growth and survival in low pH conditions. Identifying low pH survival mechanisms would "give further insight into tumor progression and potentially introduce novel therapeutic strategies," researchers said.

In this study, the researchers tested cancer cell lines under acidic conditions to learn more about autophagy and cellular adaptation. They noted that normal cells in the acidic environment can respond to acidic stress by increasing cell death pathways, thus introducing the need for survival and adaptive mechanisms by cancer cells.

The researchers also noted that their experiments were carried out under
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Contact: Kim Polacek
kim.polacek@moffitt.org
813-745-7408
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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