Closing Glutamine Gateways Could Potentially Kill Cancer Cells

Cutting cancer cells off from nutrients resulted in a 96% reduction in growth.

A recent study found the supply route cancer cells take to gain glutamine could potentially be used to develop new treatments.

In a study published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers blocked these gateways, and found cancer cells almost entirely stopped growing.

"This is likely to work in a wide range of cancers, because it is a very common mechanism in cancer cells," said lead researcher Professor Stefan Bröer, PhD. “Better still, this should lead to chemotherapy with much less serious side-effects, as normal cells do not use glutamine as a building material. Crucial white blood cells, which current treatments damage, could be spared, and it could cut out the hair loss that chemotherapy causes."

Researchers said this new method would be less prone to resistance, since blocking the glutamine transport is an external process that would be difficult for the cancer cells to bypass. They first tried to block glutamine by altering cancer cells to disable their glutamine transporter, but researchers found this to be ineffective.

"It was not quite as simple as we thought. The cells set off a biochemical alarm which opened a back door in the cell so they could still get the glutamine they needed," Dr Bröer said.

Researchers then disabled the secondary gateway by turning off the biochemical alarm with RNA sequencing, and cell growth decreased by 96%. Now that researchers have discovered the significance of glutamine gateways, it is important to find treatments that can lock them and kill cancer cells.

"We have developed a set of tests which make it very easy to determine if a drug is targeting glutamine transporters," concluded lead study author Angelika Bröer. "This means we can set robots to work that will test tens of thousands of drugs for us over the next year or two."