Energy for the Motility and Proliferation of Aggressive Cancers Discovered

Researchers discovered that the gene RhoC is able to control how cancer cells create energy and use glutamine.

How aggressive cancer cells use energy to move and proliferate was discovered by researchers in a recent study.

They found that the gene RhoC can interact with cancer cells to regulate how it creates energy from glucose, and as a result of this, cancer cells move faster than healthy cells, according to the study.

Researchers also found that RhoC controls how cancer cells use glutamine.

"This is a vulnerability for aggressive cancer cells that we are prepared to exploit. We have definitely found an entry point that lies at the heart of the cancer cell's ability to use energy," said senior study author Sofia D. Merajver, MD, PhD. "Because cancer cells are abnormal, they have limited options to survive. They need to leverage every advantage. When we find an opportunity like this to attack how cancer cells function, we create an opportunity to help destroy the cancer."

Researchers previously discovered Rhoc is a driver of aggressive cancers such as inflammatory breast cancer.

The metabolites that RhoC can alter control the energy level in the cell, according to the study.

"We are very excited to discover a connection between a known metastasis-causing gene and alterations to the metabolic characteristics of the cells,” said study co-first author Joel A. Yates, PhD. “RhoC seems to cause very specific and robust changes in the inflammatory breast cancer model that differ from not only normal-like cells, but also other types of breast cancer.”

Researchers believe that RhoC targeted treatments could lead to more personalized medicine and genetic sequencing, while including metabolomics that prescribes treatments based on the chemicals produced in cancer cells, according to the study.

"Through metabolomics we can describe exactly what is happening at the molecular level even if we do not know exactly all the connections between the signaling proteins in the cell," Dr Merajver said. "Gene sequencing would reveal RhoC is involved, but it wouldn't necessarily point us to the right target. It wouldn't tell us how things are wired."

The researchers are planning additional studies to examine which enzymes are critical to cancer cell survival in order to find new treatment targets, according to the study.

"I have wanted to cure inflammatory breast cancer since medical school, when I saw my first patient with it," Dr Merajver said. "This is why basic science is important. It's essential to understand the biology and the exact mechanisms so that we can find the right target to halt this devastating disease."