Washington: The powerhouse of cells, mitochondria, has been unearthed by scientists as the new ‘‘Achilles’ heel’ of breast cancer, opening the doors for new therapeutic goals in breast cancer and other tumour types, a new study has revealed.
Michael P. Lisanti, and colleagues have provided the first in vivo evidence that breast cancer cells perform enhanced mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to produce high amounts of energy.
“We and others have now shown that cancer is a ‘parasitic disease’ that steals energy from the host -- your body,” Dr. Lisanti said.
“but this is the first time we’ve shown in human breast tissue that cancer cell mitochondria are calling the shots and could ultimately be manipulated in our favour.”
Mitochondria are the energy-producing power-plants in normal cells.
However, cancer cells have amplified this energy-producing mechanism, with at least five times as much energy-producing capacity, compared with normal cells.
The research further supports the idea that blocking this activity with a mitochondrial inhibitor, for instance, an off-patent generic drug used to treat diabetes known as Metformin, can reverse tumour growth and chemotherapy resistance.
“Metabolically, the drug Metformin prevents cancer cells from using their mitochondria, induces glycolysis and lactate production, and shifts cancer cells toward the conventional ‘Warburg Effect’. This effectively starves the cancer cells to death.”
This new concept could radically change how we treat cancer patients, and stimulate new metabolic strategies for cancer prevention and therapy.
“Mitochondria are the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of tumour cells.”
“And we believe that targeting mitochondrial metabolism has broad implications for both cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, and could be exploited in the pursuit of personalized cancer medicine,” Dr. Lisanti added.