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Sugar uptake could lead to onset of cancer

22 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Researchers have said that a dramatic increase in sugar uptake could be a cause of oncogenesis - a process by which normal cells are transformed into cancer cells.

Mina Bissell, Distinguished Scientist with Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, said that through a series of painstaking analysis, they discovered two new pathways through which increased uptake of glucose could itself activate other oncogenic pathways.

She said that this discovery provides possible new targets for diagnosis and therapeutics.

Bissell's team examined the expression of glucose transporter proteins in human breast cells.

The focus was on the glucose transporter known as GLUT3, the concentrations of which Onodera and Bissell showed are 400 times greater in malignant than in non-malignant breast cells.

The study was carried out using a 3D culture assay developed earlier by Bissell and her group for mouse mammary cells and later with her collaborator, Ole Petersen, for human breast cells. The assay enables actual reproduction of breast cells to form structural units and for malignant cells to form tumor-like colonies.

Bissell said that they found that overexpression of GLUT3 in the non-malignant human breast cells activated known oncogenic signaling pathways and led to the loss of tissue polarity and the onset of cancerous growth.

She said that conversely, the reduction of GLUT3 in the malignant cells led to a phenotypic reversion, in which the oncogenic signaling pathways were suppressed and the cells behaved as if they were non-malignant even though they still contained the malignant genome.

The findings have been reported by Onodera.

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