Cancer Hijacks the Microbiome to Glut Itself on Glucose


Source: CU Anschutz Medical

Summary: A new research shows that leukemia undercuts the ability of normal cells to consume glucose, thus leaving more glucose available to feed its own growth.


Cancer needs energy to drive its out-of-control growth. It gets energy in the form of glucose, in fact consuming so much glucose that one method for imaging cancer simply looks for areas of extreme glucose consumption, where there is consumption, there is cancer. Leukemia cells create a diabetic-like condition that reduces glucose going to normal cells, and as a consequence, there is more glucose available for the leukemia cells. Literally, they are stealing glucose from normal cells to drive growth of the tumor.” Like diabetes, cancer’s strategies depend on insulin. Healthy cells need insulin to use glucose. In diabetes, either the pancreas under-produces insulin or tissues cannot respond to insulin and so cells are left starved for energy while glucose builds up in the blood. The current study shows that leukemia goes about creating similar conditions of glucose buildup in two ways. The study findings were published in Cancer Cell.

Luekemia

Haobin Ye, PhD. Credit: CU Anschutz Medical Campus

One major difference in the guts of leukemic mice was the lack of a specific kind of bacteria known as bacteroids. These bacteroids produce short-chain fatty acids that in turn feed the health of cells lining your gut. Without bacteroids, gut health suffers. And the current study shows that without bacteroids, gut health suffers in ways that specifically aid cancer. One way is the loss of hormones called incretins. When blood glucose gets high, for example after you eat, your gut releases incretins, which tamp down blood glucose, reducing it back into the normal range. Working through the gut, leukemia inactivates these incretins, allowing blood glucose to remain higher than it should. Leukemia also nixes the activity of serotonin. Understanding these mechanisms that cancer uses to unbalance the body’s system of energy in their favor is helping doctors and researchers learn to thumb the scale in favor of healthy cells.

Prof. Craig Jordan said, “This furthers the notion that you can do things systemically to disfavor leukemia cells and favor normal tissue”, “This could be part of limiting growth of tumors.”


More Information:  Haobin Ye et al, “Subversion of Systemic Glucose Metabolism as a Mechanism to Support the Growth of Leukemia Cells”, Cancer Cell (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.ccell.2018.08.016 


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