Glucose Could Play a Role in Cancer Treatment

Glucose-starved immune cells elicit stronger response to cancer cells.

Glucose is crucial for cells to create energy, as well as for cellular growth and division. Specifically, immune cells become active during an immune response and require additional glucose to properly fight pathogens.

Since there are many parts to the immune system response, glucose becomes a vital factor in this process. When cells are starved of glucose, they can become dysfunctional and prevent an optimal immune response.

However, findings from a new study published by Nature Communications suggest that certain immune cells fighting antigens and cancer cells may better stimulate immune response when starved of glucose.

Dendritic cells are immune cells that warn of antigens present in the body. The cells process antigens and present them to T cells to initiate an immune response.

The authors discovered that when dendritic cells are starved of glucose, they can better stimulate T cells to fight disease, according to the study. With an increased response, it is likely that more cancer cells will be eliminated.

"It is becoming clear that glucose is an important signaler [sic] in our immune system, in that cells that have access to glucose behave very differently to those that do not,” said researcher David Finlay, PhD. “We have discovered that dendritic cells are actually better at stimulating immune responses when starved of glucose, which is not the case for any of the other immune cells that have been analysed [sic]."

The authors believe that these findings could lead to novel approaches to treating cancer and autoimmune disease by bolstering immune response.

"The discovery that T cells and dendritic cells compete with each other for glucose offers a new and exciting insight into how glucose can regulate dendritic cell function,” Dr Finlay concluded. “We hope that by better understanding how nutrients such as glucose control the immune response, we can go on to develop new therapies to tackle a host of debilitating immune-related diseases."