New discovery gives hope for fighting metastatic cancer — ScienceDaily

Cancer that divides and grows into new organs around the body becomes significantly more difficult to fight. Now, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have shown that these metastatic tumors, which spread from the original, adapt their metabolism to the tissue in which they grow. The discovery represents a breakthrough in understanding metastatic cancer and is an important piece of the puzzle in the search for more effective treatments.

The metabolism in the human body can be compared to its internal engine. It is a prerequisite for our cells to grow and receive energy. Therefore, it is also an important target for cancer treatments, where the goal is to stop the progress of cancer cells.

In a new study, recently presented in the scientific journal PNAS, Systems and Synthetic Biology researchers at Chalmers looked at how metabolism works in cancer cells that have spread via metastases, also called secondary tumors, to new organs. The study has provided researchers with new insights into how metastases adapt to their new environment.

“Obviously, the local environment affects cancer cells more than previously known. Metastatic tumors are expected to exhibit the same metabolic properties regardless of where they are in the body, but we found that cancer cells largely adapted their metabolism to the new tissue in to continue to develop and grow. This is important knowledge, which demonstrates that we cannot regard metastases as their original tumors,” says Fariba Roshanzamir, PhD in Systems and Synthetic Biology at Chalmers and lead author of the study.

Tools to inhibit cancer metabolism

Fariba Roshanzamir works in Professor Jens Nielsen’s research group in Chalmers and, together with Swedish and international colleagues, was able to establish the pioneering results. The study focused primarily on so-called triple-negative breast cancer, a serious breast cancer that is difficult to treat with drugs, but the findings can, according to the researchers, apply to all types of metastatic cancer. This opens new doors to develop more effective treatments.

“If we can stop the metabolism in a tumor, it will stop working, and this study provides important keys to better understanding what to target. By selecting metabolic inhibitors that specifically target metastases in the organs to which the tumor has spread, rather than treating them like their original tumors, is of great importance in order to be able to find good strategies for treatments in the future,” he says.

New insight into the properties of metastases

Today, the spread of cancer to new organs is a leading cause of death in cancer patients. Jens Nielsen, a professor of systems and synthetic biology at Chalmers University of Technology and one of the study’s authors, hopes it will lead to new insight into the properties and behavior of metastases.

“This is a step forward in terms of understanding metastatic cancer and an important step towards more personalized medicines,” he says.

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Materials provided by Chalmers University of Technology. Original written by Ulrika Ernström. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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