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Factors Affecting Metabolism and Growth of Cancer Cells

Update Date: Feb 24, 2017 08:40 AM EST
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The "Warburg Effect" was first observed in the 1920s but its significance remained unnoticed until recently. German biochemist and Nobel Prize laureate Otto H. Warburg noticed that the metabolism of tumor cells affected the tumor's growth.

The phenomenon took the backseat in cancer research until a paper was published in the journal Leukemia about the signals STAT5, a tumor promoter, sends and it's effects to oncogenic transformation.

Science Daily reported that STAT5 helps in the maturation and development of blood cells with the help of tyrosine phosphorylation that can switch off some genes. When there's a STAT5-dependent tumor, tyrosine phosphorylation causes change in the genes pattern and blood cells divide uncontrollably that may result in leukemia.

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) also reported about tumor heterogeneity or the variations between different tumors and of the cells within the same tumor. The London-based ICR also revealed how tumors change and what causes these changes.

One such factor that the ICR found is the accidental mutation of oncogenes. KRAS, a protein that can be found of the surface of cells was cited as an example. The KRAS, when activated helps healthy cells grow. With cancer cells, the KRAS is mutated to constantly sending growth signals which in turn promotes the growth of cancer cells.

The KRAS is found in a number of cancers and is common in 90 percent of pancreatic cancer cases.

Another condition that can affect the growth of cells in tumors is hypoxia or the lack of oxygen. This happens when cancer cells lack oxygen because of weakened blood vessels. Our body allows these oxygen dependent cells to have emergency access to our genes in order for them to survive. The genes make the cells less reliable to oxygen which allows them to survive, multiply and cause further mutation on the genes.

Knowing how these genetic faults and environmental factors affect tumor heterogeneity, doctors can be better guided when it comes to treatments that they can give patients and guide the development of drugs that can target specific flaws or cancer subtypes.

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