DURHAM, N.C. — Biomedical engineers at Duke University have demonstrated that metastatic cancer cells can reprogram their metabolism to thrive in new organs. Specifically, the research shows that cells originating from colorectal cancer change their dietary habits to capitalize on the high levels of fructose often found in the liver.
The finding offers both general and specific insights into new ways of fighting metastatic cancer. It appears April 26 in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Cancer becomes much more deadly once it spreads to different parts of the body, yet treatments don’t take their location into account.
“Genetically speaking, colon cancer is colon cancer no matter where it goes,” explained Xiling Shen, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke. “But that doesn’t mean that it can’t respond to a new environment. We had a hunch that such a response might not be genetic, but metabolic in nature.”
In the study, Shen and his colleagues found that certain metabolic genes became more active in liver metastases than they were in the original primary tumor or lung metastases. One group of metabolic genes stood out in particular, those involved in the metabolism of fructose. This struck the researchers because many Western diets
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