Metabolism and Cancer

A typical cell is a bewildering array of small and large molecules, enzyme catalyzed reactions, and complex organizational structures. A cancer cell has the same motifs but almost all the particulars are different. Hence, it’s been difficult to find a single underlying root cause for sickness that might be targeted for therapy.

A new paper from researchers in Boston, Stockholm, and La Jolla makes a contribution to identifying a common unifying abnormality in cancer. The far-flung group used mass spectrometry to profile 219 small molecule metabolites across 60 well characterized human cancer cell lines. The essential finding is that there is an unexpected increase in the reliance on glycine metabolism in the disease.

Why does this matter? Two reasons.

First, if cancer cells (but not normal cells) require large amounts of glycine to proliferate, blocking its uptake or synthesis might provide a tumor specific therapy. Easier said than done, perhaps, but a good lead, and tempting for enterprising medicinal chemists. Second, the newly demonstrated value of a large scale combination of metabolomics and systems biology could be further mined for additional clues about cancer or any other disease of interest. Like all truly good experiments, this one uncovers future prospects.

Tom Tritton is President and CEO of CHF.

Cancer and Memory: A Molecular Connection [Periodic Tabloid]
King Cancer [Chemical Heritage]
Episode 144: Mystery of Mass (Spec) [Distillations]
Easy Mass Measurement of Viruses And Nanoparticles [C&EN]

Posted In: Technology

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