Part of the success of cancer vaccines lies in their ability to target the tumor microenvironment along with the tumor itself. A recent breakthrough shows similar promise as a way to cut off the energy molecules that fuel the growth of cancer cells.
A research team led by Dr. Atsuo Sasaki, an assistant professor at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine, discovered that an enzyme called PI5PK4ß acts as a virtual “arrow on a fuel gauge” with regard to cancer growth. The enzyme functions by sensing available amounts of energy and communicating that information to cancer cells.
Until now, the identity of such a molecular sensor remained unknown. In fact, Dr. Sasaki and his associates initially met with skepticism regarding their study, which has since been published in Molecular Cell.
Cells are fueled by two types of energy molecules. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, provides most of the necessary energy. Guanosine triphosphate, referred to as GTP, is used to synthesize protein and also acts as a traffic cop directing various cellular processes.
PI5PK4ß acts as a GTP sensor by recognizing and binding itself to the molecules. Dr. Sasaki’s team was able to interrupt the process by designing mutant PI5PK4ß cells that lacked the ability to detect GTP. According to Dr. Sasaki, their hope is to use this discovery to develop a means of cutting off this energy source from cancer cells.
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