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Glutamine Ratio Key Ovarian Cancer Indicator, Study Finds

Update Date: May 06, 2014 10:14 AM EDT
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An analysis of metabolic profiles of hundreds of ovarian tumors has helped in devising a new test that would determine whether ovarian cancer cells have the potential to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. 

The study which includes the analysis also suggests how ovarian cancer treatment can be tailored based on the metabolic profile of a particular tumor. 

"We found a striking difference between the metabolic profiles of poorly aggressive and highly aggressive ovarian tumor cells, particularly with respect to their production and use of the amino acid glutamine," said lead researcher Deepak Nagrath of Rice, in the press release. "For example, we found that highly aggressive ovarian cancer cells are glutamine-dependent, and in our laboratory studies, we showed that depriving such cells of external sources of glutamine -- as some experimental drugs do -- was an effective way to kill late-stage cells."

"The story for poorly aggressive cells was quite different," said Nagrath, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of bioengineering at Rice. "These cells use an internal metabolic pathway to produce a significant portion of the glutamine that they consume, so a different type of treatment -- one aimed toward internal glutamine sources -- will be needed to target cells of this type."

For long cancer researchers worldwide have been trying to create treatments that target the altered metabolism of cancer cells and this research is an important part of the growing efforts. 

"Each type of cancer appears to have its own metabolic signature," Nagrath said. "For instance, kidney cancer does not rely on glutamine, and though breast cancer gets some of its energy from glutamine, it gets even more from glycolysis. For other cancers, including glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer, glutamine appears to be the primary energy source."

The research has been conducted by the researchers at Rice University and appears this week in Molecular Systems Biology.

 

 

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