As our bodies convert food into energy, they produce debris that accumulates as we age. New research indicates that one of these metabolic disposables plays a potentially deadly role in the development of cancer.
This finding adds to the body of knowledge about how the aging process accelerates the chances of developing a deadly cancer, but it also provides potential means for blocking metastatic tumors.
Published this Wednesday in the Journal Nature, the study stems from a study of metastases, the process by which cancer cells separate from the original tumor and earlier new tumors elsewhere in the body.
When we looked at the metastatic cells, we found an interesting one, a high level called methylmalonic acid (MMA). It is a metabolic byproduct that appears to accumulate as you age.
To investigate whether MMA may play a role in metastasis, scientists have examined the behavior of lung and breast cancer tumor cells when exposed to blood samples taken from people under 30 or over 60. I checked.
In 25 of 30 blood samples from young donors, cancer cells showed no change, but in 25 of 30 old blood samples, cells began to show different characteristics.
Studies have found that they have developed increased “mobility and invasive capacity,” as well as resistance to two drugs often used to treat cancer.
Injecting cells into mice resulted in metastatic tumors in the lungs.
So how does MMA trigger changes in these cancer cells? The key seems to be a kind of reprogramming that “turns on” a gene called SOX4.
Previous studies have shown that SOX4 makes cancer cells more aggressive and more likely to metastasize.
“what to do”
To test if it’s really SOX4 that is altering the properties of cancer cells, the team blocks gene expression and discovers that MMA no longer appears to have the same effect Did.
Blocking SOX4 also stopped the process by which cancer cells resist two cancer treatments.
“This discovery is the start of many investigations in many different directions,” said John Brenis, professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine, who led the study.
“But our overall hope is to be able to develop treatments that ultimately lower MMA levels, which in turn reduce cancer mortality,” Brennis announced at Weill Cornell Medicine. I made a statement.
There are many open questions, including why MMA accumulates with age and whether the mechanisms researchers have observed in blood samples and mice are the same in humans.
All blood samples used were also taken from men, and one of the ways Blenis would like to investigate further is whether the accumulation of MMA has the same effect on women.
“This is a whole new discovery and we still have a lot of work to do to follow it up,” Brennis said.
However, there are already some promising potential ways in which the findings could impact treatment.
Since MMA accumulation is associated with a high protein diet, a low protein diet may help improve the response in cancer patients.
In theory, drugs that lower MMA levels could also play a role, potentially reducing the aggressive spread of cancer in patients.
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