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Cancer Cells Adapt Energy Needs To Spread Illness to Other Organs: Study

Update Date: Sep 22, 2014 10:42 AM EDT

Cancer cells traveling to other sites have different energy needs from their 'stay-at-home' siblings which continue to proliferate at the original tumor site, suggests a new study. 

According to the study, the reason may lie with the protein PGC-1a, a type of transcription co-activator crucial to regulation of cellular metabolism. 

"New therapy strategies are beginning to focus on the unique vulnerabilities of cancer cell metabolism. Determining the metabolic requirements of invasive cancer cells could be of therapeutic value," said Valerie LeBleu, Ph.D., assistant professor of cancer biology at MD Anderson and lead author, in the press release. "We found that invading cancer cells rely on mitochondria during their transition to other cancer sites."

Some cancer cells are programmed to eat at home and some have a special diet that allows them to travel to other sites. The study added that if there was a therapeutic way to stop the migrating cells from packing a lunch ahead of time, it could potentially halt the journey.

"The most dangerous cancer cells are the ones that can efficiently move and find a new home," said Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., chair of cancer biology and an investigator on the study. "The study revealed a strong correlation between PGC-1α expression in invasive cancer cells and the formation of distant metastases in breast cancer patients."

The study has been published in the journal Nature Cell Biology. 

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