Shedding light on 100-year-old cancer mystery

IMAGE: This is Ze’ev Ronai, Ph.D., a professor in SBP’s NCI-designated Cancer Center. view more 

Credit: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP)

LA JOLLA, CALIF. – Sept. 12, 2018 – For almost a century, scientists have observed a strange behavior in cancer cells: They prefer a less-efficient pathway to produce energy. While normal cells utilize aerobic glycolysis to use glucose to produce 36 energy-storing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules, most cancer cells, despite the presence of oxygen, switch to anaerobic glycolysis, which only produces two ATPs.

Known as the Warburg effect, this process relies on a class of enzymes known as lactate dehydrogenase, with lactate deyhydrogenase A (LDHA) being the most prominent player. Inhibiting LDHA could stop cancer cells from generating the energy they need to grow and survive, but little is known about how effective LDHA inhibition could be, largely due to the lack of pharmacological inhibitors that work in vivo.

Using genetic and pharmacological means, scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) were surprised to find that blocking LDHA had only a limited impact on melanoma cells, since they were able to redirect energy production. Their results identify an alternative growth pathway driven by a


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