Cancer cells and normal cells both divide and move, but with cancer cells it’s like they’re on steroids: everything is bigger, faster, more.
A new study explains how cancer cells use energy to fuel this switch between motion and proliferation. The researchers identified for the first time a connection between a cancer gene that controls motility and how cancer cells metabolize energy to move and divide so quickly.
Researchers looked at inflammatory breast cancer cells and found the gene RhoC interacts with the cell’s machinery at a molecular level to regulate how it produces energy. RhoC directs the cells to generate energy from glucose quickly. This wiring then drives the cancer cells to move faster than normal. RhoC also controls how cancer cells use another nutrient, the amino acid glutamine.
“This is a vulnerability for aggressive cancer cells that we are prepared to exploit. We have definitely found an entry point that lies at the heart of the cancer cell’s ability to use energy,” says Sofia D. Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director of the breast oncology program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the senior author on the paper.