JUN 28, 2020 5:36 AM PDT

Insight Into How Dietary Changes Could Affect Cancer Therapies

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Researchers are investigating the complex relationship between cancer, diet, and metabolism in cells, and are attempting to create a kind of map of cancer. This research can help reveal connections between how cancer grows and how to treat it. A recent study published in Cell, utilized an electrosurgical tool called the Intelligent Knife (iKnife). The device can detect cancer cells as it burns through tissue during a procedure, and has been used in breast cancer surgery to tell surgeons when they are cutting cancerous or healthy tissue only seconds after the cut starts. The smoke that is created by the iKnife (which does not contain viable cancer cells) carries chemicals that can be used for research and diagnostic purposes.

“A few years ago, a technology was introduced which was based on a very simple idea, to connect the electrosurgical device with a mass spectrometer and measure the ionization profile of the smoke that is being generated,” explained Dr. George Poulogiannis. “We wanted to explore if using this technology could gather even more detailed information about the biology of the cancer and the key drivers of the disease.”

The iKnife was developed by study author Professor Zoltan Takats at Imperial College London. 

The scientists began to screen samples from tumors, mouse models of cancer, and cancerous cell lines to look for links between metabolism and cancer. “When we did that, we observed something which at the beginning was quite strange,” noted Poulogiannis.

They found two groups of breast cancer samples, which were characterized by what fats were detected by the iKnife. But breast cancer cells are not classified in this way by clinicians, who usually look at the status of hormone receptors. Further study showed that these differences in fats were explained by the presence of a mutation in a gene that is involved in a cellular pathway called the PIK3CA pathway. Arachidonic acid is one of the fats that was found at high levels, and it can be made by cancer cells. It's also involved in the immune response to cancer.

“We then tried to find what was the mechanism behind it [the stratification of the samples and we found that some signaling pathways downstream of oncogenic PIK3CA regulate this overproduction of lipids. And the biomarker fatty acid that caught our attention was arachidonic acid, because this serves as the major hub of pro-inflammatory response in cancer. And this is a fatty acid we get both from the diet, and also PIK3CA mutant cancer cells have a unique ability to increase its production”

Drugs that disrupt the PIK3CA pathway were found to be far better at making tumors grow more slowly in a mouse model of breast cancer when the mice got a diet with no fatty acids. This research has now explained why the mutation causes some inhibitors to be ineffective, said Poulogiannis; it's probably because there's too much arachidonic acid.  

“I think this is one of the first few studies, or maybe even the first, that shows a dietary fat restriction plays a major role in therapy response.”

Sources: Cancer Research UK, Cell

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 30, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Cell Movement Increases as Interactions Increase, Contrary to Assumptions
APR 30, 2020
Cell Movement Increases as Interactions Increase, Contrary to Assumptions
New research has changed what we know about how cells interact with each other.
MAY 20, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Detect a Vulnerability in Viruses
MAY 20, 2020
Researchers Detect a Vulnerability in Viruses
Myriad organisms share this planet, and there is an ongoing evolutionary arms race between competing traits or species, ...
MAY 26, 2020
Immunology
The Hunt for Rare Immune Cells, to InfinityFlow and Beyond
MAY 26, 2020
The Hunt for Rare Immune Cells, to InfinityFlow and Beyond
The immune landscape is staggeringly complex, with a myriad of genetically and functionally distinct immune cell subpopu ...
JUN 11, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Changes in Gut Mucus are Connected to Brain Disorders
JUN 11, 2020
Changes in Gut Mucus are Connected to Brain Disorders
In recent years, researchers have learned more about how important the gut is to human health. Trillions of microbes liv ...
JUN 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Human Eggs Can Choose the Sperm They Prefer
JUN 14, 2020
Human Eggs Can Choose the Sperm They Prefer
While people usually put a lot of effort into finding a partner, recent research suggests that our bodies are choosy in ...
JUN 15, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Revealing the Network of Neurons in the Heart
JUN 15, 2020
Revealing the Network of Neurons in the Heart
The autonomic nervous system is linked to the intrinsic cardiac nervous system (ICN), which is thought to help regulate ...
Loading Comments...