HOUSTON - Leukemia cells, like most cancers, are addicted to glucose to generate their energy, but new research shows for the first time that these cells also rely on fatty acid metabolism to grow and to evade cell death.
Inhibiting fatty acid oxidation makes leukemia cells vulnerable to drugs that force them to commit suicide, scientists from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and The University of Texas Medical School at Houston report in the January edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
"These findings translate to a potentially transformational approach to controlling leukemia and cancer cell metabolism by therapeutically targeting fatty acid oxidation," said co-senior author Michael Andreeff, M.D., Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy.
"Cancer metabolism has attracted renewed, cutting-edge research interest," Andreeff said. "Here we have first identified a metabolic target and our first in vivo results are promising, but there is much more work that needs to be done."
Andreeff and co-senior author Heinrich Taegtmeyer, M.D., D.Phil., professor in the University of Texas Medical School Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, are collaborating to develop drugs based on their research results.
"The leukemia cells' appetite for fat seems to be formidable," Taegtmeyer said. "More importantly, fat oxidation seems to promote leukemia cell survival. Conversely, shutting off fat oxidation makes the cells vulnerable to self-destruction. If these initial results hold up, inhibitors of fat oxidation may become a new way to treat leukemia patients."
In normal cells, the processing of fatty acids in the cell's power-generating mitochondria leads to production of ATP, a molecule that serves as the major source of energy for the cell. The researchers showed that fatty acid oxidation in leukemia cell mitochondria drives cellul
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University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center