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Scientists Spot How Sugar 'Feeds' Tumors

Finding could lead to new cancer treatments, researchers say

THURSDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- New information about how sugar "feeds" tumors has been uncovered by U.S. researchers, who said the finding may also have implications for other diseases such as diabetes.

"It's been known since 1923 that tumor cells use a lot more glucose than normal cells. Our research helps show how this process takes place, and how it might be stopped to control tumor growth," Don Ayer, an investigator at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah, said in a university news release.

Ayer and his colleagues found that restricting an amino acid called glutamine halts a cell's ability to utilize glucose.

"Essentially, if you don't have glutamine, the cell is short-circuited due to a lack of glucose, which halts the growth of the tumor cell," Ayer explained in the news release.

The study appears in the Aug. 17 online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The next step in this research involves developing animal models to test theories about how a protein called MondoA and a gene called TXNIP control glucose uptake by cells.

"If we can understand that, we can break the cycle of glucose utilization, which could be beneficial in the treatment of cancer," Ayer said.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Utah, news release, Aug. 17, 2009

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